Rec center becomes shelter
June 24, 2007
Hundreds of people scurried from their homes in the South Shore’s southwest neighborhoods, as the Angora fire erupted quickly and raged.
Some homeowners were hosing down their homes with water, while others packed some belongings and moved out of the North Upper Truckee area. Wind gusts turned the sky black and gray several times, confusing many people who couldn’t tell from the whipping winds how far to go for safety.
A California Highway Patrol vehicle raced down the road with an affirmative: “Get out now.”
It soon became apparent this fire was one of the worst in recent memory.
The last time city officials were in this predicament was the Gondola fire of 2002, and that was memorable. But this was different. Homes were consumed, and the growing fire threatened more and more.
The city moved quickly to establish evacuation centers, with 110 people taking advantage of the service as of Sunday night.
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The South Lake Tahoe Recreation Center had opened as Parks and Recreation Director Gary Moore and his staff provided food and shelter, an area for dogs, and an information center to answer the numerous questions regarding the whereabouts of displaced residents.
The Red Cross quickly secured medical care, with Girl Scouts volunteering to distribute food, blankets and pillows. Safeway, AYSO and the El Dorado County Jail donated an abundance of food.
Terry and Donna Domnick, who own a home on Zuni Avenue, were returning home from Carson City when they heard about the fire. They were turned back when they got to South Tahoe High School, but didn’t know the status of their home.
“We heard that the house behind us on Wintoon burned,” he said. “We don’t have a clue about our house.”
Gladys Ross has owned her home on Angora Creek Road for 45 years and was visibly shaken as Moore consoled her.
“We were asked to evacuate around 4 o’clock by a sheriff driving through our neighborhood.” Ross said. “It looked like the fire reached the end of our street when we were leaving.”
“Our kids and grandkids also live in that area, and we haven’t heard from them either,” she added. “We’re scared about the whole thing.”
“I saw it start,” said Ron Abrams, who with his son evacuated their house on North Upper Truckee. “I saw smoke coming out of a house on Pyramid Circle, and next thing we knew, the forest was on fire.”
“I got on my motorcycle, and went down View Dr. and the whole place was on fire,” Abrams added. “I felt like I was in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Things were exploding around me, so I turned around and went the other direction.”
Stan Freeman built his home on Pyramid Court 1 1/2 years ago, and was at home when the fire started.
“I was on the phone, and saw a red hue outside,” Freeman said. “We walked behind our house, and saw flames 100 feet high, ran home, grabbed our animals and computers and got out of there.”
“It sounded like a freight train,” Freeman added. “We know our house is probably gone, but at least we are all safe. We can rebuild. The most difficult part is not knowing.”
Fourteen year-old Marshall Martin was alone in his house on Mt. Diablo Ave. When the fire broke, he didn’t panic. He rounded up two dogs and a rat, found some keys to one of the trucks on the property, and drove to Lira’s Market, where he called his grandparents; owners of the home.
“As for as I know, the house is gone,” professed his uncle, who preferred to go unnamed. “I’m glad he knew how to drive. The house was on fire, so he barely got out.”
Autumn Bernstein and Eben Swain just moved into their rental between Angora Highlands and Fallen Leaf Lake only a week ago.
“When we saw the smoke, we grabbed the pets and took off,” Bernstein said. “We have the clothes on our back, our pets and sleeping bags. We’re just going to camp at Nevada Beach.”
Pete and Jane Mueller have owned their home on Delaware Avenue for 35 years.
“We smelled smoke, and thought ‘who the hell is using their fireplace today?” she said. “Around 4:30, a neighbor told us about the fire, then we heard horns honking, so we gathered as much as we could and got out of there.”
The feeling at the Recreation Center was solemn, but the feeling of camaraderie and support helped those who may have lost their homes feel comfort in knowing they and their loved ones are safe.