Few lawless acts add to fire woes | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Few lawless acts add to fire woes

William Ferchland

Chad Lundquist / Nevada Appeal / California Highway Patrol officers detain suspected looters in an evacuated area during the Angora fire in South Lake Tahoe on Tuesday.

In the chaos of the Angora fire and the eerie quiet in the evacuated areas, law enforcement officers are on patrol to combat looters, trespassers and other lawbreakers.

So far no arrests of looters have been made. On Tuesday, when the Angora fire leaped over Highway 89 near West Way, authorities detained four people they thought were looting in the Tahoe Keys but released them.

“There was no hot loot,” said South Lake Tahoe police Lt. Marty Hale.

Hordes of people flooded Tallac Village, Gardner Mountain and Tahoe Keys to grab prized possessions and wet down their property when the fire jumped. Hale said law enforcement from various surrounding agencies helped ensure no lawbreakers tried to mix in with the law-abiding.

Authorities cited two people for trespassing in the burn area near Tahoe Mountain Road on Tuesday, according to El Dorado sheriff’s Deputy Phil Chovanec.

The men, on bikes using a dirt road to check out the scene, were told to leave but were caught returning, Chovanec said.

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“We have enough to worry about,” Chovanec said, adding, “Everybody has been really good (Wednesday).”

With evacuees allowed back into their homes from Wintoon Drive to Grizzly Mountain Drive beginning today at 8 a.m., El Dorado County Sheriff Jeff Neves said people need proof of residency to ensure lawbreakers or the curious won’t seep into the affected areas.

“We don’t want anybody in there that shouldn’t be there,” Neves said.

The California Highway Patrol has about 30 officers from districts around Northern California stationed at checkpoints and patrolling the evacuated areas day and night, said CHP officer Jeff Gartner.

When high-profile politicians visit, such as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday, they’re usually accompanied by their own security detail, Gartner said.

“They all know what they’re doing because they’ve been doing it for so long,” he said.

El Dorado County Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe said he wasn’t aware of a different type of crime in a crisis – price gauging.

He anticipated prices might increase slightly if the fire disrupted transportation supply lines, but advised people to contact law enforcement if they see prices jump dramatically.

But for now, Uthe has only heard of residents and others committing acts of kindness.

“The community seems to be a community one can be proud of,” he said.