Letter — Airport played important role in fire fight
The Gondola Fire may be contained, but it’s not out. This subtle distinction is not lost on the 3,200 families who lost their homes in the Oakland Hills fire. And while we ponder the significance of this, we ought to be rethinking our positions on the humble Tahoe Valley Airport. This political whipping boy of South Lake Tahoe provided the fueling and maintenance base for the two heavy and six light-to-medium sized helicopters that shuttled the desperately needed water from nearby Lake Tahoe to the flames and embers of the Gondola fire continuously for days.
Homeowner’s insurance will do nothing for a forest converted to a moonscape. Perhaps the League to “Save” Lake Tahoe and other such groups might recognize how many trees and how much erosion was spared by the air operations facilitated by the same asset that has been so wrongly maligned for so many years.
The next fire is only a matter of time, and so is our emergency response capability. Forcing these air operations to climb an additional 2,000 vertical feet from the Carson Valley is wholly impractical. The airport has dramatically proved itself as a critical public safety facility on a regional basis and deserves to be supported in the same fashion, both politically and financially on both sides of the state line.
Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Doolittle, the control tower was still operating, which enabled general aviation flights to continue fueling the local economy, even as the helicopters fueled to fight the fire. This is not the end of the fire season, but the beginning, and they come every year. Regional support for this little airport should be a very hot topic; the catastrophic Oakland Hills fire was a relight.
Bill Kolstad Jr.