Wind shift, backfire spur evacuation along Emerald Bay Road | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wind shift, backfire spur evacuation along Emerald Bay Road

David Bunker

A tree erupts in flame as the Angora Fire flares Tuesday afternoon. / Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Residents along Emerald Bay Road hurriedly packed up belongings from homes and businesses Tuesday and fled the Angora fire as smoke billowed over the highway and flames reached within a stone’s throw of homes.

The Gardner Mountain neighborhood southwest of Tahoe Keys was under a mandatory evacuation order Tuesday afternoon and Tahoe Keys residents were asked to voluntarily evacuate. The Gardner Mountain neighborhood has approximately 300 homes and 2,000 residents, according to Associated Press reports.

The evacuations came after a backfire — set to contain the wildfire — shifted and caused spot fires across 200 acres near the highway.

“We had a containment line that it spotted over,” said Tom Efird, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

The backfire was started to keep the Angora blaze from flaring up when the winds kick up today, Efird said.

Ben Broche, the part owner of the Almost Home Group Retreats on Emerald Bay Road, turned the sprinklers on and packed up his belongings as he prepared to leave his business.

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“I’m just trying not to panic, trying to think what we should get out of each place,” Broche said. “This is all we have.”

Broche said he was uncertain whether his business would survive the day.

“I feel like anything could happen at this point,” Broche said. “I’ve seen a lot of houses burn already.”

Other residents and business owners stood on rooftops hosing down their homes or pouring buckets of water over their businesses.

Firefighters hastily chain-sawed tree limbs that encroached on some structures.

Meanwhile, fire raced through dead wood and brush along the highway, sending columns of black smoke across the neighborhood.

Patrick Sullivan, who rents a home in Gardner Mountain, was loading tools and dirt bikes into his truck.

“I’ve already got most of my stuff out,” said Sullivan, a 15-year resident of South Tahoe. “I’m used to the fire thing, but it’s never been on my doorstep.”

Officials warned that neighborhoods near South Tahoe’s Emerald Bay Road may see worse weather today — winds are expected to pick up.

Winds that were blowing the fire back on itself Tuesday are expected to shift and blow the blaze to the northeast, Efird said.

“(These residents) are going to continue to be at risk, especially with the wind shift tomorrow,” Efird said Tuesday. “We’re not out of the woods.”

Firefighters attacked the blaze with dozens of engines and hand crews, helicopters and enormous air tankers, Efird said.

The fire was estimated at 3,100 acres as of 10 p.m. Tuesday and 44 percent contained.

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