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Tahoe fire destroys 165 homes

Susan Wood, William Ferchland, Elaine Goodman and Jeff Munson
Tahoe Daily Tribune

At least 165 homes have been destroyed in Tahoe’s worst fire in half a century according to South Lake Tahoe Mayor Kathay Lovell.

“This is the worst fire I can recall,” Lovell said. “It just shows you the power of this. It is heartbreaking. It is absolutely heartbreaking. We’ve got Lake Valley firefighters who are fighting the fire and who have lost their own homes.”

As of 9:50 p.m., firefighters are concerned about South Tahoe High School. Apparently flames are seen near the school, and firefighters are dousing hot spots in the trees around the school, according to witnesses.



The fire appears to be moving in the path of the school and continues to burn out of control, moving in a northerly direction toward the city, according to the U.S. Forest Service and the Camino Interagency Command Center.

County Supervisor Norma Santiago, who represents the Tahoe District 5, said El Dorado County has issued a proclamation of emergency which is the first step toward getting a proclamation from the governor. A state proclamation would get in motion state funding for cleanup from the disaster.




No injuries have been reported. The burned homes are in the Mule Deer Road, Mount Raineer, Clear View and Lake Tahoe Boulevard areas. The fire is at least 750 acres and growing, said U.S. Forest Service public information officer Todd Chaponot. The wind has died down from earlier today when gusts were up to 35 mph. Temperatures will be a big factor overnight, officials said, as cool weather could knock down the fire quickly.

Kit Bailey, the agency’s fire chief incident commander for Lake Tahoe, said high winds were hampering fire crews in their battle against the fast-moving blaze, according to the Associated Press.

The blaze is in the upper Angora Creek drainage about five miles south of South Lake Tahoe. It prompted evacuations of the Angora Lakes Resort and hundreds of homes in the North Upper Truckee Road area of Tahoe Paradise, located next to South Lake Tahoe, authorities report.

“I can’t stay on the phone. We just got a notice to evacuate,” said Gloria Hildinger of the Angora Lakes Resort. “The smoke is getting pretty thick. It’s probably two miles away and we’re hoping it won’t reach here.”

“They’re definitely having problems with the winds up there,” said Linda Curran of the Camino Interagency Dispatch Center in California. “The fire has a rapid rate of spread because of the winds.”

At least six air tankers and two helicopters were assisting more than 400 firefighters on the ground. However, the wind has been a problem to have aircraft in the air, Jackie Faike of the U.S. Forest Service said.

The fire, believed to be caused by human activity, was reported at 2:14 p.m. Sunday on U.S. Forest Service land.

Its huge smoke plume can be seen for miles around the Reno-Tahoe area.

The entire North Upper Truckee area is under evacuation as the fire is growing rapidly toward the Upper Truckee Road near Tahoe Paradise. Structures are either on fire, or threatened and evacuations are underway. Residents in the Saw Mill Pond area and Gardner Mountain areas have been told to be prepared to evacuate.

Roads are closed at North Upper Truckee at Highway 50 all the way to Lake Tahoe Boulevard. Authorities are alerting residents of Gardner Mountain to be prepared for evacuation.

People who have been ordered evacuated are told that they can go to the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Center on Rufus Allen Boulevard, the Lake Tahoe Senior Center at 3050 Lake Tahoe Blvd., and South Tahoe Middle School. The command post for firefighters was moved to the Lake Tahoe Airport.

Reporter Susan Wood says one firefighter told her that up to 20 to 30 homes had been destroyed from his vantage point. It appears that three fires are simultaneously underway. Two of the fires appear to have been spawned by the initial fire.

People have been driving frantically out of the area and others are running on foot. A motorcycle rider was seen getting off his bike and putting out a fire on a bank, Wood reported.

One man screamed “I’ve put three fires out already,” Wood reports.

Outside agencies have been called in for help as the fire is moving fast. California Highway Patrol officers are leading the evacuations.

A structure was reported fully engulfed in fire at 716 Lake Tahoe Boulevard, and it is believed that ash from the fire may have caused it, according to police dispatch reports.

A Tahoe Daily Tribune photographer reports the fire is growing, with plumes of smoke growing hundreds of feet in the air. The fire can be seen from Carson Valley.

A homeowner, Jim Furguson, who lives on Coyote Ridge, sprinted down North Upper Truckee toward the “Y” saying, “there’s not much you can.”

Witness Amanda Fehd, a Meyers resident, said the fire was very small and it grew within five minutes.

“It’s growing. There are humongous billows. … It is terrifying to everyone to see this,” she said.

Tribune staffer Phillip Sublett, who made his way down Echo Summit reported that around 4 p.m. flames were visible from Highway 50 north of Echo Summit, with columns of brown-and-white smoke billowing up over the basin.

Traffic controls were in effect on Highway 50 in Meyers to make way for the large

volume of vehicles leaving North Upper Truckee Road.


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