Heartache or relief: Residents learn the fate of their homes at college
June 25, 2007
The indiscriminate nature of damage caused by the Angora fire was revealed in the main lobby of Lake Tahoe Community College on Monday, as South Lake Tahoe residents gathered to examine nearly a dozen pages listing properties damaged by the blaze.
Many of those at the college had been evacuated from areas surrounding the fire on Sunday, with no knowledge of whether or not their homes escaped the flames.
On the lists, containing data gathered by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office early Monday morning, were several streets under which all the houses were listed as “OK” or having “major” damage. Most streets contained houses exhibiting a wide range of destruction, often with intact houses standing next to the completely lost.
“Why does it say my house is the only one on the street that has major damage?” asked a young woman in disbelief after finding her home on the list.
While some people left the room in tears or with a sense of muted elation, depending on the condition of their home, most were left with heartbreaking uncertainty.
Even after an update at 10:30 a.m., many homes near the fire couldn’t be found on the list, because the areas had not yet been reached by sheriff’s deputies or a home’s number was unavailable
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Residents peppered officials with requests for more information, but further details were hard to come by.
As people continued to pile in, deputies were constantly reiterating the two reasons a home could not be identified — because house numbers were obscured or the homes themselves were completely destroyed.
By noon, the crowd inside the library had swelled to more than 100, with many people checking the addresses of friends and family. Those who had determined their homes were safe could be seen consoling those who hadn’t.
Listening to people who have lost their homes is the most important aspect of helping them through the grieving process because everyone is different, according to Dave Zander, an El Dorado County mental health clinician, who traveled from Placerville on Monday to act as a grief counselor at the college.
The complete lack of injuries from the fire was remarked upon several times by those in attendance, and iterations of “it’s just stuff” were commonplace.
South Lake Tahoe resident Pam Singer was overheard summing up the sentiment inside the lobby when she was overheard comforting two visibly distraught young children.
“We have each other,” she said.