My View: Notes from the Front Row

Carl Ribaudo
Tribune columnist

Local Musings

Turn the page. What a year 2021 has been. Good riddance. What started on the wrong foot with a hangover from COVID-19 became optimistic as vaccinations started to take hold and entered summer with such optimism and promise.

I was looking forward to a classic Tahoe summer, bike, hike swim. You get the picture. I am sure many others had the same idea. But July came, and with it, the Tamarack Fire, and we started down a back alley that would only get worse.

Carl Ribaudo

Since the Angora Fire over a decade ago, I have been keeping an eye on and tracking the fires and smoke that impact tourism destinations across the west, and there has been an uneasy trend of more and more impact of smoke and fire. Over the past several years over 25% of summer days have had bad air quality index numbers. Little did we all know what was to come.

The Caldor Fire came in mid-August and with it an experience that changed us forever. We all lived with hope and fear as we watched and waited. At first, we watched with one eye on reports about the fire that seemed so far away, but every day like a constant drumbeat, we saw the fire move in our direction.

Acre by acre, we watched and waited, and as our worst fear came to pass, we changed as a community. Suddenly nothing else was important; garden variety disagreements suddenly no longer mattered. We prepared, we evacuated, and we were glued to any and every report we could to glean some piece of information that would let us build on any grain of hope we had that the fire would not come our way.

It could have been disastrous for South Shore; instead, it became our finest hour. Our friends in the rest of the county suffered terribly, and it will take decades for the forest to recover, but somehow, we avoided disaster. Never have I been so happy to see the Oxnard Police Department patrolling my neighborhood.

In the experience of Caldor, we reaffirmed our appreciation for firefighters and first responders. At the same time, I appreciated the role of federal, state, and local government agencies in managing such a massive effort.

As we look ahead to the new year, turning the page is not about forgetting 2021 but learning what’s important. We learned that we could come together as a community, care about a neighbor, and look beyond ourselves to a greater good.

Moving into the new year and the challenges we face, including a need for more housing, a better economy, and so much more. While these challenges seem formidable, let us consider what 5,000 firefighters, first responders, and dozens of government agencies did. Let us become a community that, no matter the size of the challenges, doesn’t bicker, doesn’t feel hopeless, but instead, we can be a community that moves with urgency and figures it out.

Big events shape history we can either learn and gain wisdom or waste the moment, it’s up to us.

It is a Wrap

Let’s all try and buy as much as we can locally. I know it’s a challenge but think local first and while we are at it lets have some patience with employees and business and they get slammed over the holidays.

It’s been nice to slowly get back in the groove of getting out to some entertainment, eating out and generally getting back to normal. We could have been in a terrible position, but we are not. Be thankful. With that I wish everyone in the community a happy holiday and best wishes for the new year.

Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker, and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. you can reach him at

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