Monday, June 30, 2008

The Sun Rises

Tahoe In Flames - Update

This week is the anniversary of the 2007 Angora Wildfire in Tahoe and I will be posting the series of first-hand articles I published during the Angora fire.

29 June 2007 - Angora Wildfire - South Lake Tahoe CA.

Today in Tahoe began with a beautiful and colourful sunrise. Thanks in part to all the particulates in the air that caught the early morning rays of sunshine. Probably the only side effect of the Angora wildfire that can be enjoyed. But it appears to have been a harbinger of better things to come.

As the morning grows brighter, the whomp-whomp-whomp of a helicopter passing overhead signals the resumption of the chopper parade and the beginning of today’s aerial assault. The predicted high winds for Wednesday and Thursday did not materialize giving the 2100 plus firefighters a chance to contain the Angora wildfire. Ground crews have constructed a firebreak completely encircling the burn area. Official word is the fire is now 70% contained.

There are still hot spots and even larger active blazes burning within the perimeter. The fire will not be considered 100% contained as long as there is a possibility of embers being blown past the fireline and creating another fire. Smoke still rises from the burn area. Most of the homes have completely burned out. However, like charcoal briquettes in a barbeque, the charred tree trunks and roots continue to smolder long after the flames have disappeared from sight. Timber fires can smolder above and below the surface for three or four months.

With the favourable wind conditions and the wildfire stalled within the fireline, there is good news for many of the firefighters. 600 crew members are already heading home, and if progress today continued at the same pace as the past two days, many more will be able to return home possibly cutting the crew numbers in half. The remaining firefighters will guard against embers breaching the fireline and will work inwards dousing hotspots.

If anyone was planning to spend the 4th of July in Tahoe, or visit the area during the summer, you do not need to change your plans. Tahoe is still here! The lake is still blue and beautiful, and filled with fish. The mountains await hikers and picnickers. There are 200 miles of improved bike paths and hundreds more miles of mountain bike trails. Almost all of the campgrounds are still open! There are some tightened restrictions about campfires, grills, and other things that can be igniters of another wildfire. However, those restrictions are typically in place during the summer months anyway. And last I heard, Harvey’s Lights on the Lake - the largest synchronized fireworks display west of the Mississippi - is still a go for the 4th!!!

Statistics for the morbidly curious:

  • The Angora Wildfire is 70% contained.
  • The fire has burned 3100+ acres.
  • 2175 firefighters battled the blaze, plus two dozen aerial teams .
  • No deaths !YEAH!
  • 1 notable injury - a boulder dislodged on a steep slope rolled over one firefighter breaking his arm.
  • 254 homes have burned to the ground.
  • 25 more homes are severely damaged.
  • Dozens of other homes have extensive smoke and water damage.
  • Residents are being escorted by individual household into the burn area to inspect their home or photograph the remains.
  • Most residents that were evacuated from adjacent neighborhoods that did not burn, are being allowed back into their homes.
  • Firefighting costs are currently over $10 millon.
  • Damage estimates for the Angora wildfire are running in the $200+millon range.

No comments: