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More evacuations ordered in South Lake Tahoe; victims get tax relief

Update 9:40 a.m.: El Dorado assessor directs property tax relief for Angora Fire victims

El Dorado County Assessor Tim Holcomb is taking several steps to provide property tax relief to victims of the Angora Fire.

The office will staff a booth at the Disaster Relief Center located at Lake Tahoe Community College. Applications for disaster relief will be available along with current property information and assistance.



The assessor is also introducing an emergency ordinance streamlining the existing county procedures. The measure will authorize the assessor to lower values without waiting for the property owner to fill out an application form.

“We will put teams in the field to establish the loss in value and enroll the lower value‚” said Holcomb. “We have to meet certain requirements, but this action will reduce tax bills due later this year.”




The office will be working with maps and information obtained by the Office of Emergency Services in conjunction with the El Dorado County Surveyor‚ GIS Department. Property tax relief is available under Section 170 of the California Revenue & Taxation Code when a property suffers a loss in value due to a disaster or calamity.

Under the law, property owners will also be entitled to relief for one month’s, prorated amount of property taxes for the fiscal year ending June 30.

The Assessor is also posting special information to the Assessor’s Web page at http://www.co.el-dorado.ca.us/assessor.

The main office in Placerville is located at 360 Fair Lane in the County Government Complex. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The telephone number is (530) 621-5719.

The South Lake Tahoe office is located in the El Dorado Center at 3368 Lake Tahoe Blvd., Room 103. Office hours are 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The telephone number is 573-3422.

Update 9:17 a.m.: Evacuations ordered

Angora Fire officials have ordered the mandatory evacuation this morning of a South Lake Tahoe neighborhood that was threatened Tuesday afternoon.

Residents on West Way, Lukin Way, Ward Way, Weir Way and 15th Street north of Highway 89 are under mandatory evacuation orders.

A voluntary evacuation order has been issued for all residents of the nearby Gardner Mountain neighborhood south of Highway 89, or Emerald Bay Road.

Some residents of evacuated areas are being allowed inside to check on the status of their residences.

After a quiet night, firefighters are gearing up for windy conditions later today, which prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Red Flag Warning for critical fire conditions.

Update 8:47 a.m.: Another evacuation center opens

A third American Red Cross evacuation shelter has been set up at Incline High School, 499 Village Blvd. The other shelters are at Carson High School, 1111 N. Saliman Road and at the Lake Tahoe Recreation Center, phone: (530) 542-1556. Call the Red Cross at (775) 856-1000.

A hotline has been set up for residents to find out if they can return to their homes. Call (530) 621-5866. The last report from the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department hotline is that mandatory evacuations remain in effect for those living in the Gardner Mountain subdivisions from Lake Tahoe Boulevard north to Gardner Street including Highway 89; Highway 89 from 15th St. north; and Upper Truckee Road from Wintoon north and Lake Tahoe Boulevard. Voluntary evacuations include: Tahoe Island, Highway 50 north to 15th street and east of Highway 89 and Tahoe Keys area.

*****

Update: 8:17 a.m. Strong winds that fueled flare-up remain concern with Tahoe fire

MEYERS, Calif. (AP) ” Firefighters were warned Wednesday that stronger afternoon winds could stoke a turbulent wildfire near Lake Tahoe and pose a threat to their safety, a day after a flare-up forced thousands of residents to flee.

Officials believed they had a handle on the eastern edge of the blaze, which already has destroyed nearly 200 homes at the south end of the scenic alpine lake. But a surprisingly big gust Tuesday afternoon was all it took to push firefighters off the line they had been holding for more than a day.

The surge briefly trapped two firefighters and forced the evacuation of the Tallac Village development, which includes 300 homes.

“It really is hard to predict what these winds are going to do,” said Kelly Martin, a fire behavior analyst who addressed hundreds of firefighters from across the state at a pre-dawn briefing Wednesday.

As she spoke at the Heavenly Ski Resort parking lot, dense smoke began to filter in from the fire burning just to the west.

Winds were expected to gust slightly higher Wednesday than Tuesday, reaching speeds up to 35 mph, with the most dangerous window being from about 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., National Weather Service forecaster Jim Wallmann said. Humidity was expected to hold steady.

With stiffer gusts predicted, officials acknowledged that more homes, including some in the most affluent waterfront neighborhoods, could be threatened. Several officials at the briefing said the wind could also present a danger to firefighters themselves.

“Tomorrow’s the test,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Tom Efird said late Tuesday. “Hopefully there will be no more tests.”

Tuesday’s flare-up happened in an area where firefighters had set a fire the night before as part of their efforts to keep the main blaze from reaching more houses and Lake Tahoe itself. The gust blew embers from the burn area over the fireline and started new spot fires, said Rich Hawkins, a Forest Service fire commander.

The blaze descended so quickly that two firefighters were forced to deploy the emergency shelters they carry to protect themselves as a last resort.

Without the shelters, the men would have died, Hawkins said. The men, missing for nearly an hour, managed to walk away uninjured.

Inmate crews deployed to clear brush along Highway 89 in case flames jumped the fireline again, as the blaze loomed within view.

About 2,000 people evacuated from affected areas Tuesday, according to South Lake Tahoe Police Lt. Martin Hale.

John Rheault, 53, had prepared to leave his home along Highway 89 for the past couple days and just needed to load up a few more items into a trailer when authorities announced the new evacuation orders.

“It’s heartbreaking, but we’ll just have to play it by ear. There are people in a lot worse shape than us,” he said.

Officials had announced an evacuation order for the Tahoe Keys, but later said the announcement was based on erroneous information and there was no such order.

Earlier in the day, authorities said the danger to homes had diminished as dying winds gave firefighters a badly needed leg up on the inferno, which started Sunday. But by Tuesday afternoon, the blaze had consumed more than 3,000 acres and was only 44 percent contained, they said. Two minor injuries have been reported.

Now a hoped-for July 1 containment has been pushed back to July 3, Hawkins said.

“Why should I be up here telling you that it’s almost over, because it’s not,” he told firefighters at a planning session late Tuesday.

Investigators have isolated the fire’s point of origin, near the popular Seneca Pond recreation area, and they were close to identifying its cause, Forest Service spokeswoman Beth Brady said.

Authorities have said they believe the fire was caused by human activity, but there was no indication it was set intentionally.

“Human cause doesn’t necessarily mean arson,” Brady said.

The area at the source was so dry, Brady said, that a discarded cigarette butt or match easily could have ignited the fire. The area also was dotted with the remnants of illegal campfires, she said.

Many homeowners got their first look Tuesday at the destruction, with some discovering scenes of total devastation and others counting their blessings over smoke-filled homes blanketed with ash.

Concerned about looting, dozens of sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers roamed the burned neighborhoods ensuring that only those who lived in the area were allowed in. Cars lined up at an elaborate checkpoint where their windows were marked with white shoe polish to designate the street number of the home where it was headed.

Beyond the checkpoint, neatly manicured driveways led to metal garage doors still standing like gates to nowhere amid the skeletons of burned-out homes.

“I didn’t save hardly anything in the house,” said retired firefighter John Hartzell, whose home of 20 years was incinerated by the wildfire. Along with his wife, adult son and daughter, he sorted through the charred rubble in search of any mementos that might have survived.

“I got out with the clothes on my back, my fire coat and my helmet,” he said.

Elsewhere, an opulent contemporary log home stood nearly untouched, even though all the sod in the yard had burned.

“It picks and chooses,” said Lynn Cisl, whose home along the edge of the most damaged area also survived. “It’s sort of like a disease. It’s devastating.”

“””

Associated Press Writers Amanda Fehd and Brendan Riley in Meyers, Aaron C. Davis and Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Update: 7:25 a.m. The latest from U.S. Forest Service. …Firefighters worked overnight to strengthen existing fire lines and did some mop up around structures and inside the fire perimeter. The fire’s behavior overnight was “quiet,” according to the Forest Service. Containment is at 44 percent. So far 3,100 acres burned.

There is a public meeting tonight at 8 p.m. at South Tahoe Middle School.

There are 1984 firefighters on the fire. There are 11 helicopters, 145 engines, 54 hand crews, 14 water tenders and two buldozers. For information regarding evacuations citizens are asked to call 573-7966, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s office.

A red flag alert was issued Tuesday for today by the National Weather Service. This means there is a high danger for fire due to increasing wind as well as an expected increase expected in temperatures and low humidity. The wind is supposed to pick up in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

*****

Update: 6:55 a.m.: A smoke filled sky this morning greeted firefighters, with relatively sporatic wind conditions overnight. A red flag warning has been issued for the Lake Tahoe Basin, which means high danger for the Angora fire to spread.

There were no evacuations overnight.


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