60 Years of Barton Health: 2000’s – When disaster struck
60 years ago, the community’s dream of a local, Tahoe-based hospital became reality. Barton Health has assembled a collection of articles to commemorate 60 years of quality and compassionate health care for our community and its visitors. Beginning with the 1950s, an article outlining the events of each decade will be published monthly, culminating with the 2020s on Barton’s official 60th anniversary in November. Follow along this historical journey each month and learn more at BartonHealth.org/History.
The June 2007 Angora Fire
For decades, disaster drills have been conducted to help community agencies prepare in case of emergency, giving leaders a better understanding of who would respond to a large-scale disaster and how the agencies would interact.
On June 21, 2007, Barton Health management officials participated in an emergency-preparedness training session. Just three days later, on June 24, the timing of those drills seemed prophetic with the onset of one of the region’s worst disasters.
The historic Angora Fire started in the heavily forested region west of North Upper Truckee Road below Echo Summit. The first 911 call was recorded at 2:10 p.m. By 4 p.m., Barton had established an incident command center, ready to implement its emergency action plan.
Due to high winds and other factors, the fire spread rapidly. Barton officials participated in an emergency operations command center to collaborate with other emergency responders. The hospital management team continually assessed the unfolding situation, maintained communications with frontline emergency crews, and surveyed the available resources such as bed availability and staffing.
Barton was located just one mile from the wall of flames, which had climbed 60 feet high. Because the hospital might be forced to evacuate, emergency patients were swiftly transported to Carson Tahoe Hospital or Renown Health. Non-emergency patients were routed to off-site facilities to free up the Emergency Department for potential fire victims.
The skies filled with smoke and the air quality deteriorated, initiating the evacuation of 39 elderly residents of Barton’s Skilled Nursing Facility.
The incident command center would not close until the fire was 80 percent contained—five days after it started. In the aftermath, it was confirmed that 147 Barton employees had been evacuated from their homes and 16 employee/physician houses had burned to the ground.
Rebuilding the Emergency Plan
In the end, our team gained valuable knowledge, and the Angora Fire disaster prompted Barton Memorial Hospital to boost its emergency-preparedness plan in case of future disasters.
And as 2021’s Caldor Fire burned towards the basin, the team at Barton used past experience to again safely evacuate the residents of our Skilled Nursing Facility, and ultimately the entire hospital.
Thankfully during the Caldor Fire, homes in the Lake Tahoe basin were spared, though the neighboring communities of Twin Bridges and Grizzly Flats experienced major damage, from which they are still recovering. The experience is still a raw memory, and organizations including Barton Health continue to train, improve plans, and prepare for large scale emergencies.
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