Cautiously optimistic: Angora fire behavior easing |

Cautiously optimistic: Angora fire behavior easing

Adam Jensen and William Ferchland

Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun

After concerns about high winds fanning the flames of the Angora fire, officials announced positive results in the battle against the blaze on Wednesday.

Ten mph winds, far less than the 35 mph gusts predicted by the National Weather Service on Tuesday, didn’t begin until late in the afternoon.

“I’m feeling a lot better today than I was yesterday,” said Ranger Dorn, operations planner for the unified command at the start of a briefing on Wednesday evening.

Rich Hawkins, incident commander with the U.S. Forest Service, said at a Wednesday evening press conference that the fire had burned 3,100 acres at the South Shore and was 55 percent contained.

The fire did not expand throughout the day and no additional homes were lost, according to Hawkins.

So far 229 homes had been destroyed since the start of the blaze on Sunday, up from Tuesday’s estimate of 178 homes, and more than 3,000 people had been evacuated. Thirteen additional homes were described by Hawkins as being “severely damaged.”

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The number could go even higher as damage assessments are still in the works.

About 750 homes remained threatened by the fire, although the incident commander expected this number to rapidly decrease if firefighters continue to make progress similar to that on Wednesday.

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office estimated structural damage at $141 million, with additional costs associated with damage to infrastructure, including power lines, yet to be calculated.

Fighting the fire has cost $5.5 million so far, and could cost between $15 and $30 million by the time it is put out.

Full containment is expected by July 3.

The cause remained under investigation. Evacuees can return to homes from Wintoon Drive to Grizzly Mountain Drive beginning today at 8 a.m. from Highway 50. El Dorado County Sheriff Jeff Neves said officials are working diligently to get evacuees from the burned areas off Lake Tahoe Boulevard and North Upper Truckee back to their properties quickly, but provided no date of when that might occur.

Although fire is of little or no concern in the damaged areas, weak trees that could fall and downed power lines are a concern, officials said. Officials are working on restoring utilities to the area.

Many audience members at a community meeting at South Tahoe Middle School on Wednesday night wondered when they could return to their destroyed homes. Unlike Monday’s meeting, there was little vocal contention against the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, although flier were distributed eliciting online comments on the regulative agency.

Red Cross liaison Rich Mallonee said evacuees should visit Lake Tahoe Community College beginning Friday to find out about help with money, lodging, clothes, health care and mental health.

“Look at it,” he said of the mental health stigma, “as an opportunity to talk to someone you’ll never see again.”

The college is also the location for people to speak with insurance agents and building officials from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Other community meetings are anticipated to take place in the upcoming days.