Editorial: Local lessons from Hurricane Katrina | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Editorial: Local lessons from Hurricane Katrina

It is a bleak time in our country’s history: Our soldiers are waging war overseas, terrorism has become a reality of everyday life, and the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history has wiped out the lives of countless Gulf Coast residents. But even in the darkness, there can be light ahead Ð we can learn from our collective experience and create a safer world for tomorrow.

For Lake Tahoe, a relatively remote, heavily forested area, this means preparing for a potential large-scale wildfire.

Although last winter brought sufficient snowpack, we are still in a relatively dry decade that has brought several large-scale wildfires, including the 2002 Gondola fire above Heavenly ski resort. Homes were evacuated during the 600-plus acre blaze, but firefighters got an upper hand before disaster struck. A black scar near Kingsbury grade reminds us how close we are to Mother Nature’s wrath.

Next came the Waterfall fire that ripped through Carson City the summer of 2003, burning more than two dozen homes. A month later Highway 50, the main artery between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, was closed for nearly a week while the Fred fire raged out of control.

Basin homes and businesses escaped all three fires, but next time, we may not be so lucky.

The lesson of Hurricane Katrina is that Lake Tahoe needs to be prepared. For years, fire and forestry officials have warned Tahoe residents and visitors about the threat of fire, but most residents likely don’t have a plan for evacuation, and public safety officials have done little to communicate a master plan to the public.

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Now is the time for residents to prepare individually, and for a comprehensive community plan. If a disaster strikes, whether it is a fire, earthquake or human-caused, lives will depend on the actions we take now.