Tempers flare at community meeting: But firefighters receive a standing ovation
June 25, 2007
People can start returning to their homes this morning, but only from North Upper Truckee via Highway 50 to Wintoon Drive as officials are getting a handle on the Angora fire, expected for full containment by July 1.
The news was delivered to an anxious crowd packed inside the multi-purpose room at South Tahoe Middle School during a community meeting Monday night.
El Dorado County Sheriff Jeff Neves said those along the stretch need to provide proof of residence to law enforcement to gain entry into their homes. Those with homes not along the stretch are expected to wait until Thursday to be escorted into the area.
The loss of structures totaled 178 severely damaged, nine with moderate damage and 17 with minor inflictions from the flames, Neves said.
All utilities will be restored except for gas through Wintoon Drive, Neves said.
“We need your patience and cooperation,” Neves said.
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Some in the crowd were anything but calm. When John Singlaub, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning agency, took the microphone to answer a question if the fire will prompt the agency to loosen its policies on tree cutting, he was met with boos and calls for the agency’s end.
Singlaub was in the middle of saying that removing trees for defensible space was allowed when an audience member cut the quiet with an expletive involving bovine excrement.
Singlaub then handed off the microphone, walking away from hecklers.
Applause erupted when it was said South Tahoe High School was not damaged, Gardner Mountain subdivisions are not threatened, there were no injuries or fatalities, and the historic lookout at Angora Ridge was unharmed. A standing ovation was given to the firefighters.
Animal control remains on patrol and Cheryl Millham, of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Center, advised people to call the center if they see wandering wildlife.
Lorenzo Gigliotti, chief of the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department and Jeff Michael, chief of Lake Valley Fire Department, commended the mutual aid between California and Nevada. More than 700 firefighters have been called to the blaze, while the South Shore departments still handle day-to-day calls.
“This was a fire that we’ve been afraid of for a long, long time,” Michael said.
An official with AT&T said new fiber-optic cable will be laid today in damaged areas. He added that 120 telephone and power poles were destroyed, citing another large obstacle on the road to recovery.
“We will start to rebuild your infrastructure (today),” he said.
Kit Bailey, the initial incident commander with the U.S. Forest Service, said he doesn’t expect the fire to move but cited an increase in winds Wednesday through Friday. So far, the fire is 40 percent contained.
Emily Myers, whose rented home on Mule Deer Circle was destroyed, believed the complaints against the TRPA should have been reserved for another time.
“Some of the comments, it wasn’t the place for it,” she said.
As for Michael, who leads a department of firefighters who either lost houses or had close friends who had homes reduced to rubble, he said the time has been tough. On Monday he sat down his firefighters for a meeting.
“We sat down and we talked,” he said.