California governor promises disaster funds for Angora fire | TahoeDailyTribune.com

California governor promises disaster funds for Angora fire

Adam Jensen

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger thanks firefighter Ben Henderson on Wednesday after his tour of the Angora fire area. / Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lavished praise on firefighters while promising quick aid to those affected by the Angora fire at a press conference on Wednesday.

“This, of course, was one of the worst fires in Lake Tahoe’s history,” said the governor. “We simply have the bravest and most skilled firefighters.”

Schwarzenegger described the relatively safe and orderly nature of evacuations as miraculous and said further funding from the state will be arriving in the region shortly.

“We are here to help all the people (and to) make sure that the fire victims … get quick assistance, because that’s the most important thing,” Schwarzenegger said.

State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner backed up the governor’s claims.

“My job is to help people recover as quickly as possible — (to) cut through the red tape so families get back on their feet as soon as possible,” Poizner said at the conference.

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The insurance commissioner added the state will come down on any con-artists “like a ton of bricks” if they try to defraud vulnerable homeowners.

Additional state, regional and local officials spoke at the conference, with an unexpected appearance by John Singlaub, executive director for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Singlaub was compelled to speak after a reporter raised questions about the agency’s ordinances and if any of TRPA’s rules played any role in the blaze.

“We have been working on fuels treatments and defensible space for decades. Many of the neighbors in this neighborhood had already gotten their trees cut,” Singlaub said. “I know that emotions are running high right now. People are angry. They want somebody to blame and we’re the usual target.”

Typically a lightning rod for criticism, the agency’s land coverage ordinances have come under especially intense scrutiny since the start of the fire on Sunday. In a proactive move, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office beefed up patrols of the TRPA’s Stateline office, according to a report heard over police radio on Wednesday evening.

“Do we need to change our rules? Maybe,” Singlaub said. “We certainly will be looking at everything that we can after the post-incident to look at our rules. The Forest Service will look at theirs. How can we do a better job of protecting homes and protecting the lake and the beautiful environment here at Lake Tahoe?”

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