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Gondola fire area coming back fast

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

U.S. Forest Service land burned by the Gondola fire will cost less to rehabilitate than estimated.

“Nature is really taking over fast out there,” said Denise Downie, Burn Area Emergency Response coordinator for the Forest Service. “You get plants that look like they are destroyed, yet the base of the plant is growing phenomenally.”

The Gondola fire, sparked by a carelessly discarded cigarette July 3, burned 673-acres along the Nevada side of Heavenly Ski Resort up to Tramway Drive.



A BAER team inspected the damage and estimated cleanup and erosion controls on the land would cost $40,300.

“The amount hasn’t decreased but we probably won’t spend it all,” Downie said. “We concluded we needed a little less rehab work than originally prescribed.”



Since the fire, restoration crews have been cutting down standing dead trees and placing them strategically on steep slopes to help stop soil runoff. The original BAER report called for those trees to be dug in and kept in place with pegs. But Downie said that work will not be needed.

A top priority for the Forest Service, along with Heavenly Ski Resort, is making sure the forest is free of immediate hazards in case a rider goes out of bounds and heads into the burned area. Near the North Bowl area of the resort, 151 hazardous trees were cut down. Many were left across the land for erosion control.

“We want to prevent erosion in more severely burned areas and also create safe conditions for skiing this winter,” Downie said. “I would like to emphasize that it’s always dangerous to be skiing out of bounds, but there will be even more concern this year.”

The Gondola fire burned state land more intensely than Forest Service land. The BAER team estimated rehab on state land will cost about $69,000.

A team of workers from Nevada is working to restore 40 acres of steep, charred land behind Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. Right now the team is installing erosion controls on 10 acres that surround a tributary to Edgewood Creek, which empties into Lake Tahoe.

The team is cutting down about 40 standing dead trees per acre. The trees must be dug into place and secured with wooden anchors because the slope is about 55 degrees, said Tim Rochelle, a forester with the Nevada Tahoe Resource Team.

Netted bunches of straw are also being placed along the tributary to keep soil and other nutrients out of its water.

“It’s really critical to stabilize the soil, especially the first year,” Rochelle said. “We want to get as much work done before snow gets on the ground. We’ll also be doing some treatment in the spring, some willow planting.”


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