Hundreds of firefighters poured into the Lake Tahoe area today from all over California. Coming in waves of battalions, men, and equipment; a fierce effort is being put forth by everyone here, to contain this serious situation. Close to 200 homes have been destroyed and 1,000 residents displaced. At first there was fear. However, many residents are feeling very lucky today. Not a single injury has been reported thus far.
At approximately 2:15pm on Sunday, there was an ominous smell in the air. It was the smell of wet, burnt, wood. Not normal. It has been a very dry winter and the wind had picked up the last few days. My first thought was, "This is not a good day for a fire."
Within an hour, a plume of smoke had risen high above the Sierras. The first sirens could now be heard but it was obvious to everyone: This was big and it was burning hot and fast. Chunks of debris, the size of quarters and dollars were falling from the sky miles away. The pieces of ash did not look normal either. They were big and black, textured; like pieces of bark, paneling or roof shingles.
This first hour or two of relative silence was almost un-nerving. Your first inclination was to tune into the local radio station. However, they were still in that automated - happy - Sunday - music - mode. Nothing... but, there were the web cams. So I switched to the internet and... Oh my God!
The live traffic webcam in Meyers had been redirected towards the fire. Although the fire was several miles away from the camera’s position, the video was showing an incredible site. Most notable in this live video was the wind. The smoke was dark gray and was billowing out at such a rate that it appeared to be crawling on the ground. You could see the trees in the foreground swaying back and forth.
Other webcams showed wider shots and they were also just as impressive. Using the Harvey's webcam and pressing refresh every five minutes, I was able to estimate its progress. The fire had doubled in size within 30 minutes and was expanding like a huge tornado standing in place. The extreme wide views, looking north from Sierra-At-Tahoe's Grandview Express cam, as well as Diamond Peak's (south facing cam) on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, showed what appeared to be a huge thunderhead reaching thousands of feet into the sky.
Where I live, in the center of South Lake Tahoe, on a safe island of land between two big meadows, the traffic of extra vehicles was starting to pick up at a somewhat frenzied rate. There were cars with passengers getting out, still on cell phones, pulling out boxes of belongings, exchanging hugs and crying with other neighbors just down the street. In the quiet uneasiness of this first evening, you quickly understood that people were losing their homes.
Just before nightfall, there was only a limited amount of air support. You sat and watched as three planes and two helicopters brought thimbles full of water from the lake and over the ridgeline as fast as they could circle. It was not enough and more time was needed. As the sun set and the sky grew a darker orange, it was up now to the ground crews to save this town. And, that's exactly what they did.
Overnight, the ground crews must have worked hard. They worked fast and they were determined to keep this fire where it was. Although the Harvey's webcam was dark and blurry, you could just make out Gardner Mountain as it was slowly engulfed in a ring of fire through the night.
The high school lies at the base of Gardner Mountain. On more than one occasion the rumors suggested that the high school had burned down. However, in the morning, we had learned that the crews started a backfire, burning from the high school's football field, back up the mountain. This was probably the most significant decision they made and, it kept the fire from overtaking another 500 or more homes.
Today... there seems to be better spirits, better organization and command, and higher quality information. Howie Nave, comedian and morning DJ on the local radio station, has been pulling the twenty-four-hour, I-love-my-town, and I-love-my-job, marathon session on the radio. I rarely find his humor entertaining but he has been doing a marvelous job keeping us informed.
I would also like to note the incredible outpouring of support coming from the businesses and residents of this community. It would be hard to detail all I have heard, but I will say it is quite moving. Many people have lost everything and this town has said, quite loudly, “We’re here to help in anyway we can.”
Ron A. Parker
South Lake Tahoe, California
6/25/2007 - 8:00pm:
As of 8:00pm this evening, the fire is 40% contained but not controlled. About 2,500 acres have been burned. By late last night, the fire had already consumed 2,000 acres. This shows the fantastic coordination and efforts demonstrated by all emergency personnel involved.
It was also pointed out that fuel reduction efforts in that area, within the previous years, helped us to avoid a real disaster.
6/26/2007 - 6:00pm
Around 3-4pm this afternoon the winds were picking up again. The fire broke across the containment line and the evacuation orders were issued for some of the neighborhoods on the edge of the fire.
There was a brief moment of panic amongst some of the residents as everyone scrambled to get out of the evacuated areas. I think the winds have died down now, just a little. Hopefully everybody else will calm down as well.
The winds are definitely something to worry about. Even a light wind can fan these flames to explosive levels. Another worry is how the winds can carry the burning ash. The trees burn so hot and so fast, the bark on the trees is thrown into the air and then carried as burning charcoal.
It's not over yet, more winds are expected tomorrow as well.
6/27/2006 - 7:00pm
Winds remained calm this afternoon allowing progress with the fire. Convoys of fire trucks could be seen leaving town as other crews were allowed to go on stand-by and relax. An update on the status of the fire should be expected at anytime.
These statistics and other information can be found at the Tahoe Daily Tribune Special Report webpage.
Date of Origin
06/24/2007 at 1410 hrs.
West of South Lake Tahoe
Estimated Containment Date
07/03/2007 at hrs.
Heavy Timber with large dead and down component
Fire behavior was light last operational period. Some active burning was observed in Divisions E and D.
Control line was reestablished in Div-E and Div-D. Crews continued to hold and mopup. Line improvement was continued in Divisions S and V with light activity in these Divisions. A mandatory evacuation remains in effect for the communities South of Highway 89. A road closure will remain in effect for Highway 89 at the Highway 50 Junction.
Structure protection will continue in threatened communities in preparation for predicted wind event. Continue line improvement in all Divisions. Patrol and Mopup to a depth of 200 feet. Crews will continue to remove potentially dangerous snags. divisions.
Projected incident movement/spread during next operational period:
12 hours: No forward progression is expected.
The Angora Incident remains in a Unified Command.