Neighbors watch flames move in
Saddle Road-area residents watched in vain Wednesday as a huge plume of smoke and dancing flames rising across the ridge under the Heavenly Ski Resort Gondola edged closer to their homes.
The fire, called in by a CalStar air team, started at 12:30 p.m. on newly acquired California Tahoe Conservancy property, prompting traffic jams at the height of the July 4th holiday traffic period coming into Tahoe.
The smoke could be seen as far away as Reno.
“I’m packed and ready to go,” said Jack Keller, who lives on Saddle Road.
His neighborhood was bustling with activity as South Lake Tahoe Police and California Department of Forestry units kept an eye on shifting winds that at times appeared to carry the growing fire southwest.
Cmdr. Tom Conner instructed the onlookers to prepare to evacuate if asked.
“As soon as it hits that gondola line, everybody’s out of there,” Conner said.
The units were braced to hold the line and back up fire departments that went up the throat of the fire from Park and Montreal avenues.
Linda Pounds, who lives off Sterling Court, said she saw the smoke from lake level and came home to watch its progress at the corner of Adams Way and Saddle Road.
“I thought, ‘Gee, this is sort of close to home,'” Pounds said.
Jeff Mueller had three homes to consider and used the hoses to water down the patios.
What’s his plan if fire approached the homes?
“To run,” he said. “One (of the homeowners) left a $65,000 Range Rover in the garage and fortunately left the keys,” Mueller said.
Residents and tourists lining the streets in their cars and on foot appeared mesmerized by the sight from Ski Run Boulevard to Crescent V Shopping Center.
Some people were even taking pictures of officers diverting traffic.