SACRAMENTO – To mark the 5th anniversary of the devastating Angora Fire, Senator Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin) last night during a community Fire Forum he hosted at South Tahoe High School issued a “C-” on the current status of fire safety in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
“I am disappointed to issue a ‘C-’ grade but inspired to keep working for greater safety for the region,” said Gaines. “Things are better than they were five years ago but there is still work to do and the area is still a tinderbox.”
The grade is based on the actions that have been taken on the list of recommendations made by a bi-state Blue Ribbon Fire Commission, which was formed in the wake of the fire by the Governors of California and Nevada. The recommendations were aimed at strengthening the region’s ability to prevent and respond to fire catastrophes.
The Angora Fire scorched about 3,100 acres and destroyed 254 homes, costing many tens of millions in damages and in emergency response costs. This discussion was of particular importance as Tahoe’s conditions – steep canyons, ample fuel, dry years such as in 2007, when the area received only 29-percent of normal precipitation, high winds – are a recipe for forest fire disaster. This year’s conditions are similar and the community is nervous heading into fire season.
“Tahoe is still at extreme risk for catastrophic wildfire,” said Gaines. “We can never eliminate the risk completely but we need to take every reasonable measure we can to keep this area safe.”
Senator Gaines commissioned the non-partisan Senate Office of Research to track the implementation of the 90 recommendations issued by the Blue Ribbon Fire Commission. According to their research, roughly 20 had not been implemented or their status was unclear.
“We simply cannot afford to leave these recommendations undone, and must continue to effectively implement those in progress, both for public safety and for the continued health of the Tahoe regional economy,” said the Senator.
During the community Fire Forum, a panel of experts discussed the “Report Card” and the Blue Ribbon Fire Commission’s recommendations. Community members asked questions and voiced their concerns about efforts to protect their homes, businesses and community from future destructive wildfires.
In addition to Senator Gaines, the panel of experts included: Chief Gareth Harris, Lake Valley Fire Protection District; Patty Z. Kouyoumdjian, Executive Officer, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board; Joanne Marchetta, Executive Director, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency; Mike LeFevre, Planning Staff Officer; and Chief Kelly Keenan, Amador El-Dorado Unit, CAL FIRE.
Senator Gaines encouraged residents to do their part for fire safety by exercising extreme caution with cigarettes, campfires, tools, engines or anything else that could possibly spark or otherwise cause a fire – which is how the Angora Fire began. When fires inevitably start, he asked homeowners to create defensible space around their homes and to be vigilant in clearing out brush at least 100 feet.
Senator Ted Gaines represents the 1st Senate District, which includes all or p