$1B lost to Angora Fire | TheUnion.com

$1B lost to Angora Fire

With an estimated $100 million in damage and at least $1 billion in economic losses tallied, California officials declared El Dorado County a disaster area Monday as a result of the Angora Fire.

“This is a very difficult day for people in Tahoe and for those of us who know and love that place,” said Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who signed the emergency declaration because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was traveling in Europe. The governor was receiving regular briefings by phone but had no plans to return early, his office said.

Late Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved spending federal money on fighting the fire. That approval makes money available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to pay 75 percent of the state’s firefighting costs. FEMA pays to help fight fires that threaten to cause a major disaster, according to an agency statement.

Firefighters in the South Lake Tahoe area include a special response team from Nevada County led by Spike Newby, battalion chief for Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, district Chief Tim Fike said.

Newby has hand-crew members and five fire engines from his district, the Grass Valley Fire Department and the Higgins and Ophir Hill Fire Protection districts, Fike said. A state Office of Emergency Services engine and water tender also joined the team, he said.

Nearly 1,100 firefighters are working the fire with lines set on 35- to 45-degree slopes due west of South Tahoe High School.

Light winds Monday gave the firefighters a leg up on the blaze, and by late afternoon it was 40-percent contained, fire officials said. The U.S. Forest Service expects full containment of the blaze by Sunday, authorities said.

About 1,000 people have evacuated their homes in this popular resort area along the California-Nevada border, while as many as 500 other houses remained threatened, authorities said. But with the increasing level of containment, authorities said the threat against many of the homes has eased.

The fire has consumed about 2,500 acres, claimed more than 225 homes and other structures and clouded the lake’s famously clear water with falling ash.

Officials reported no injuries in the fire; they continue to investigate the cause.

Officials said they consider the fire the worst for the South Shore in at least half a century. It started Sunday afternoon in the North Upper Truckee area and moved up to Tahoe Mountain on the South Shore, driven by wind and fuel.

The Union Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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