In fire country, evacuation plans are essential |

In fire country, evacuation plans are essential

Susan Wood

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Jennifer Vaughn clears out her apartment Wednesday in case the fire again threatens her Emerald Bay Road home.

When Jeff Pollit saw Sunday’s fire burning out of control, the resident started packing slowly — but his neighbors remained complacent. He methodically put photo albums, camping equipment, mountain bikes, prescriptions and even skis with boots in the truck — just in case.

Living on Lukins Way kept him out of the fire zone that raged over Tahoe Mountain and the North Upper Truckee neighborhood, but he had a hunch the devastation and jitters weren’t over. He was right.

Tuesday’s backfire that leapfrogged the fire crew line and over Highway 89 at Lukins and West Way accelerated his packing to what he could stuff in the vehicle in 10 minutes. Flames popped up around his house, emergency responders surrounded the area and motoring residents drove over curbs to get out of Tahoe Island and part of Tahoe Keys.

“The sky turned to a wicked black,” he said.

Before leaving, he packed a suitcase and a cooler of food.

Evacuation isn’t the type of thing most people think they’ll have to do, but at least half of U.S. residents stock an emergency kit of some sort, the American Red Cross reported.

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And in fire country, state and federal officials call the practice a necessity. For Tahoe residents, there’s no better advice in the next three days as fire officials grapple with a high wind threat kicking up an already devastating fire that had scarred more than 3,000 acres, destroyed 229 homes and injured two firefighters.

The most common mistake people make when they’re evacuating is their failure to communicate.

“People don’t think about contacting loved ones outside the area. A lot of people have a kit, but they don’t have a plan,” said Courtney Miller, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Sierra Sacramento district. The emergency response agency is working alongside local, state and federal officials battling the Angora fire.

Miller said a bundle of financial documents is the first object that should go in the vehicle. And it’s not worth risking one’s life to search for all the records if they’re scattered.