Full containment of Angora fire nears
Tallying nearly $11 million in firefighting costs, the incident command post for one of the Lake Tahoe Basin’s worst disasters plans to pack up this morning, leaving mostly local fire authorities to wrap up containment of the Angora fire. Deployment is expected tomorrow.
Containment — which stood at 95 percent as of 6 p.m. Sunday — is defined in code as fire encircled by a line. A fire line is a 300- to 500-foot surrounding swath usually dug by crews with shovels and hand tools. Sometimes bulldozers are used.
“(Containment) doesn’t mean under control,” said John Daughtery, a fire information officer who’s a retired National Parks Service employee. Control means the complete fire has been contained and the hot spots cooled down. Fire officials contend those hot spots can produce flare ups — the kind of reality edgy Tahoe Basin citizens may not want to hear, but know is a reality.
The basin faces its lowest snowpack in two decades and the driest conditions in three generations, according to fire officials.
A fuel-filled forest, a backlog of reduction projects, homeowner apathy over creating defensible space, a smoldering illegal campfire and high winds combined to create the inevitable on June 24, sending hundreds of people fleeing for their lives and fire damage costs soaring to $150 million. No lives were lost in the firestorm.
A Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) was summoned to arrive today to coordinate rehabilitation efforts, and severe fire restrictions were ordered for the South Shore that may result in fines of up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations or up to six months in jail. All this, and Tahoe heads into Wednesday’s Fourth of July holiday — which can be in any given year accompanied by a surge of 70,000 people to the resort destination that’s 80 percent driven by tourism.
Today also marks the first full day motorists have access to the fire-torn region of North Upper Truckee Road and Tahoe Mountain, where the blazing inferno consumed 254 homes, 75 other structures and 3,100 acres of forest land.
The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department lifted the restriction 6 p.m. Sunday — a two-day extension prompted by an appalled area resident whose house burned to the ground and later became a trash site for others.
Many residents have returned to find their belongings and house reduced to ashes — but soaring support from friends, family, acquaintances and strangers.
Emily Erkkilla returned to her burned-down house on Eagle Lane, but she joined in a group hug this past weekend from neighbors who faced a similar fate.
“I’m glad to come here. I think it really helps to move on. It’s too soon to know if I’ll rebuild here, but I know we want to live in Tahoe,” she said.