Angora fire: Reporting from a war zone
June 24, 2007
FALLEN LEAF — In a dozen years covering wildland fires, I’ve never run from one out of fear for my safety. That all changed Sunday.
The Angora fire, which consumed 2,000 acres and 165 structures as of press time, raged in the wind and sent residents of the North Upper Truckee Road neighborhood fleeing their homes and property.
It was scary and tragic in the worst sense.
In full fire gear, I paced up the road when people were going the other way at about 2:30 p.m. shortly after the call came in and police vehicles soon evacuated the area. People were crying and scared. I was too, wondering if at one point I needed a breathing system so I wouldn’t be overtaken.
Fires started all around me and ash blew everywhere. In some cases, blazes came down to the road. I kept moving my vehicle in the hopes of not being trapped.
For a journalist’s perspective, I went for a higher vantage point. The view of the South Shore didn’t get any better as I drove up Fallen Leaf Lake Road to Tahoe Mountain. I hiked with Nevada Appeal photographer Cathleen Allison from Fallen Leaf to the back side of Tahoe Mountain.
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Fire, which always burns faster up-hill, roared up the ridge from North Upper Truckee and met firefighters ready for action. The tactical teams brought in bulldozers. Homes were totally engulfed on Uplands Way, and my heart sank.
The street looked like a war zone, with fire retardant blanketing the road red.
Constant popping signaled a major fire, but the people were gone. Tahoe Mountain looked like a ghost town.
“There’s your crown,” one Eldorado National Forest firefighter said to another.
Allison and I saw enough and scrambled out of there.
Upon my return to Sawmill Pond to pick up Allison’s car, I was astounded by how eerie the atmosphere felt for an incident with so much activity. People were gone.
The fire incident command post became a major hub.
At my office, I was met with a few dozen e-mails from concerned citizens reading our Web updates and wondering about the fate of their homes.
To those people, good luck. I wish I knew. I’m holding on to your inquiries.