Tahoe Real-tor Talk: Life after the Angora Fire
June 24 marked the 10th anniversary of the devastating fire in the Angora section of South Lake Tahoe.
Unfortunately, the facts of this fire are all too well known to most locals. The fire caused more than $160 million in property damage, destroyed 254 homes, displaced more than 1,000 people, and burned more than 3,000 acres.
The book “Angora South Lake Tahoe,” (produced by the Tribune) which depicts the devastation, survival and restoration in the so-called “Angora Burn” or “the Burn” area, gives an excellent overview of the fire and its aftermath. I keep it out on my coffee table and people look through it often. Then we look out the windows and see the effects of the fire. And there are many. I know, because I live in the Angora Burn area.
I purchased my “Ta-home” in this neighborhood two years ago. I admit, however, that one’s initial impression of the area can be startling. Amidst a lush forest setting where beautiful greenery typically abounds, sits a neighborhood full of either dead or burned trees and scorched landscape with little protection from the strong sun, which stands as a stark reminder of the devastation that befell this community in its recent past.
I cannot imagine the horror and both emotional and physical upheaval many of my neighbors went through. The fire, or in this case, the word conflagration (thank you editors for that word –the first time I ever used that in my writing) seems more appropriate because the fire spread so quickly and forcefully that within minutes, homes and lives were changed forever.
People were thrown into survival mode, ordered not only to evacuate, but also to leave everything behind. While many people lost their home and all their prized and personal possessions, the good new was there was no human loss of life. Unfortunately, family pets, animals and wildlife creatures were killed, injured and/or burned when they were unable to escape the extreme heat and fire.
In the process of purchasing my home, I was curious as to how the old house looked and sought out pre-fire photos from the seller. I was also told by neighbors how the area looked pre-fire: trees so dense that they afforded limited views, all situated in a great peaceful, forest setting. Some folks have told me they prefer the area pre-burn, as it was a dense forest with lots of privacy and more wildlife.
In my search for photos of my house, street and community, I was told several times that “there are no photos — we lost everything in the fire.” The reality of the trauma many of my neighbors faced where everything burned but their memories is never far from my mind when I drive through my community, up my street and to my house. But I am also thankful that they displayed resiliency in choosing to rebuild and remain in the area.
Fortunately, not all houses were lost. Some in the area did survive. Was it luck? Defensible space? Probably both.
I am proud to report that the area is currently enjoying an era of rebirth, restoration and regrowth. As a result of countless hours of work, both by Forest Service professionals and volunteers, in planting yearling trees and nursing the area back to health, the trees and landscape are starting to show positive growth after years of sun and water. New trees and flowers are growing and starting to fill in the acres of charred landscape.
After our near-record winter snow accumulation, water ways are also flowing in the area. New trails are being built. Many volunteers helped plant trees after the fire and they are starting to show positive growth after years of sun and water. The Forest Service will continue to manage the lands, with a current focus of limiting the brush growth.
I have to admit my first impressions in life are not always the best. Actually, they are usually opposite of what I really end up thinking. I was too quick to judge the Burn area. Now I both live in and love it. I love the ample sunlight, the new growth, the many trails literally out my door that I enjoy while hiking, biking, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing, many times with my beloved dog Lola at my side.
With ownership by the U.S. Forest Service and the California Tahoe Conservancy, there is much open space to be enjoyed by the locals and visitors alike.
While there are reminders of the area’s history, with coatings of permanent ash and burn scars on some trees and the constant need to maintain the defensible space, my neighborhood is fast becoming one of the premier areas in South lake Tahoe. The majority of the homes are less than 10 years old. Homes that do come on the market sell very quickly and I look forward to meeting my new neighbors as well as the neighbors I haven’t met yet.
If you are looking to purchase a home in Tahoe, give me a call, don’t get burned …
Jennifer Fortune is a Realtor for Chase International South Tahoe Realty. Fellow Realtors, if you have ideas for stories or would like to share a story, please contact Fortune at email@example.com.