Letter — The truth about the Gondola fire and the airport | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Letter — The truth about the Gondola fire and the airport


Recent letters to the editor have extolled the virtues of the Lake Tahoe airport for helping to put out the Gondola fire and one even went so far as to state the League to Save Lake Tahoe should ” 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.” Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is much different than these writers would have you believe.

First, the airport was not a necessary firefighting aspect in the Gondola fire. Even the California Department of Forestry spokesperson stated she was “unaware of an airport tower having an impact on flight operations.” In fact, fires are fought all the time without airports and the California Base Lodge parking area at Heavenly would have been perfectly suitable for helicopters to land and take off in — all without having to worry about private airplanes landing at the same time. Helicopters even used an adjacent meadow along Highway 89 as an initial helispot in the first few hours of the recent Showers fire.

Second, the airport did not save flying time to Minden. Flights continued to Minden because that is where the base is for refueling the air tankers. We should feel fortunate that we have a base located so closely when and if there is another fire of this magnitude. Other locations throughout the western United States wait much longer for air tankers to drop retardant and are not always so lucky as we were in this case.

The airport costs this community $600,000 a year. Does anyone out there feel we should be spending that much money to keep an airport open for the convenience of a runway that is not even needed to fight wildfires? The League feels strongly it is time to stop the drain on the city’s budget by pulling the plug on the airport and putting that money to better use. If you agree, please call 541-5388 or e-mail (Info@keeptahoeblue.org) and let us know how you would prefer to see $600,000 spent. We’d be happy to hear from you.

Heidi Hill Drum

Communications Director

League to Save Lake Tahoe

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