Friday, August 31, 2007

Blue Ribbon Commish to meet Sept. 10

August 31, 2007 05:28 PM Eastern Daylight Time
First California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission Meeting Monday Sept. 10, South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Panel to Review Laws, Policies, Practices That Impact Tahoe Basin Wildfire Vulnerability

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The first meeting of the California-Nevada Lake Tahoe Fire Commission will be held Monday, Sept. 10 in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. The Commission will meet at 9 a.m. at the Lake Tahoe Community College Library Board Room, 1 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe.

“The California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission’s work is critical to ensure the threat of catastrophic wildfire in the Basin in reduced,” said Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman. “I’m confident the Commission’s recommendations will help both California and Nevada develop effective solutions to protect this valuable region for generations to come.”

The Commission meeting will feature presentations by local fire chiefs, scientists, the U.S. Forest Service, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Air Resources Board, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and others. There will also be a public comment and discussion period. The agenda and notice for the meeting are attached.

On July 25, in the wake of the Angora Fire, Gov. Schwarzenegger and Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons signed a Memorandum of Understanding creating the Commission. The panel is comprised of 17 voting members who represent each state's stake in the responsible management of lands and fire fuels within the Tahoe Basin. This includes representatives from various state agencies, fire agencies and the public. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture also has a designee from the U. S. Forest Service.

In addition to a comprehensive review of the laws, policies and practices that impact Tahoe Basin wildfire vulnerability, members will study various user-friendly approaches to reducing the threat of wildfires while protecting the environment. The Commission is charged with submitting recommendations to the two governors by Mar. 21, 2008.

The Angora Fire began on June 24, 2007 near Angora Creek in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. and was fully contained on July 2, 2007. The fire burned a total of 3,100 acres and destroyed 254 homes.

For more information about the California-Nevada Lake Tahoe Fire Commission visit:

To view a list of Commission members and the MOU visit:

Attached: Meeting Notice and Agenda




Monday, Sept. 10, 2007
9 a.m.

Lake Tahoe Community College
Library Board Room
1 College Drive
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

Public comment may be limited to three minutes per person at the
discretion of the Co-Chairs. Below is an agenda of all items
scheduled to be considered. Unless otherwise stated, items may be
taken out of the order presented on the agenda at the discretion of
the Co-Chairs.

(Action may be taken on those items denoted "Action")

1. Call to Order and Roll Call (Action)

2. California Report offered by Co-Chair Kate Dargan (Discussion)

3. Nevada Report offered by Co-Chair Sig Rogich (Discussion)

4. Information Reports--(Discussion)
Report on applicable requirements of California and Nevada
law including open Meeting act requirements.

California: Deputy Attorney General's Report (Discussion)
Nevada: Governor's General Counsel's Report (Discussion)

5. Discussion and Adoption of Bylaws (Action)

6. Discussion and Presentations by the following public entities
and officials regarding their regulatory/research role in fire
prevention activities (Discussion):
Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Chiefs
Lake Tahoe Science Consortium
USDA Forest Service
Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board
California Air Resources Board
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

7. Public Comment (Discussion) This item will begin no earlier
than 1:30 p.m. No action may be taken on a matter raised until
first placed on the agenda as an item upon which action will
be taken.

8. Discussion of Commission's Scope of Work and Action on
Appointment of Committees by the Commission Co-Chairs (Action)

9. Discussion and Action on Initial Implementation Steps (Action)

10. Discussion and Adoption of Future Public Meetings Calendar

11. Adjournment (Action)
This notice has been posted on the California Resources Agency Web site at and has been posted on or before 9 a.m. on the third working day before the meeting at the following locations:

Lake Tahoe Community College
1 College Drive, Library Board Room
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
901 South Stewart Street, Richard H. Bryan Building
Carson City, NV 89701-5244

Nevada State Capitol Building
101 North Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701

Nevada Legislative Building
401 South Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701
Copies of the written materials will be made available to the public at the meeting location at the Lake Tahoe Community College, Library Board Room, 1 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe, California 96150.

For information or documents (as indicated below) concerning the Commission meeting, please contact Dana Cole, Commission Staff Liaison, (916) 327-9631 or

Any written reports being provided to the Commission members in advance of the public meeting will also be available to the public upon request; and,

In accordance with Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, reasonable accommodations are available. Requests for reasonable accommodations should be made at least five working days prior to the meeting date. To request reasonable accommodations, including documents in alternative formats, please contact: Dana Cole, Commission Staff Liaison

UC Davis issues report on Tahoe


August 15, 2007

Lake Tahoe, CA/NV—UC Davis today released the first in a new series of annual reports designed to give the non-scientific community an unprecedented compendium of information that documents changing water quality and weather conditions in the Lake Tahoe Basin .

This "Tahoe: State of the Lake Report 2007" presents, in easy-to-read charts, a summary of tens of thousands of scientific observations of lake weather, water conditions, and aquatic life made since the late 1960s by UC Davis scientists. In addition, some data on weather conditions go as far back as 1911. The report also includes the widely watched annual UC Davis Lake Tahoe clarity report (also called the Secchi depth measurement).

Overall, the most striking data in the inaugural report are those showing that the Tahoe climate is warming up. This trend could have profound implications for the natural features that make Tahoe a popular international vacation destination: snowfall in winter and the beautiful cobalt-blue lake in summer.

The report includes these troubling signs of a warming climate:

• Nights are warmer: Night low temperatures have risen more than 4 degrees F. since 1911.
• Cold days are fewer: The number of days with average air temperatures below freezing has dropped from 79 days to 52 days since 1911.
• Less precipitation falls as snow: The percentage of snow in the total precipitation has decreased from 52 percent to 34 percent since 1911.
• Lake waters are warmer: The average July surface water temperature has increased almost five degrees, from 62.9 degrees F. to 67.8 degrees F., since 1999. The lake's surface waters were the warmest on record on July 26, 2006 : 78 degrees F.

"The persistent increase in water temperature that we have observed since 1978 is beginning to have noticeable impacts on the entire Lake Tahoe ecosystem," said Geoff Schladow, an expert on lake health and director of the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

"The types of algae we see in the lake are changing, and they are starting to be present earlier in the year. The lake is becoming more hospitable to invasive plants and fish, with warm-water species like bass and carp increasingly common."

The entire report is free and available online at

Schladow said he instituted the new State of the Lake Report to give the public a better understanding of the changes occurring in the basin on a year-to-year basis. Data are presented on meteorology, lake physical properties, nutrients, biology and clarity.

In the past, the single annual measurement commonly discussed in Tahoe Basin policy circles has been the clarity report – one number representing how far a white, 10-inch "Secchi disk" is visible below the lake surface. Schladow said he hopes that having dozens of other indicators to complement the clarity report will give the Tahoe community both a better understanding of the many factors that influence lake health, and a better sense of where these key indicators are headed.

As for the clarity measurement: In 2006, clarity declined. The waters of Lake Tahoe were clear to an average depth of 67.7 feet. That is a 4.6-foot loss of clarity compared with 2005, but still an improvement on the all-time low value of 64 feet in 1997.

When measurements began in 1968, the lake was clear to an average depth of 102.4 feet.

Annual variations in Lake Tahoe clarity are controlled largely by the amount of precipitation (the water content of rain and snow) that falls in the lake watershed. "Higher precipitation results in more runoff and affects the amount of soil particles and pollutants that are washed into the lake," said John Reuter, also an expert on lake health, and the associate director of the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

The precipitation total in 2006 was 48.4 inches. That is 84 percent higher than the annual average measured in 2001 through 2005, which was 26.3 inches.

Reuter and Schladow cautioned, as they do every year, that the relationship between precipitation and clarity makes it difficult to use data from any single year — or even a small number of years — to draw conclusions about whether the lake is getting clearer or more murky. "Only with the commitment to long-term monitoring can we truly evaluate environmental changes over time," said Reuter.

UC Davis experts and others believe clarity is falling because of fine particles and nutrients that enter the lake through erosion, runoff and atmospheric deposition. The fine particles scatter light; the nutrients fuel the growth of algae, which absorb light.

UC Davis and many other research institutions and public agencies are working together to restore and preserve the Tahoe Basin ecosystem.

Led by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), the organizations are currently engaged in a comprehensive effort to develop and implement an unprecedented set of environmental management plans for the basin, under the banner of a process called Pathway.

Among many other things, Pathway includes the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program, the Tahoe Basin 's 20-year Regional Plan and Forest Plan Revision, and a water-quality restoration plan termed the total maximum daily load, or TMDL – an effort under the joint direction of the states of California and Nevada .

"During wet years of extraordinary runoff, we expect to see dips in clarity," said Julie Regan, TRPA communications and legislative affairs chief. "The 2006 reading is what we would expect based on runoff conditions.

"Importantly, we remain committed to turning the tide on the long-term trend of declining clarity at Lake Tahoe and we must sustain our investment in environmental improvements if we want to achieve this important goal for future generations," Regan said.

UC Davis scientists, in cooperation with California and Nevada water quality protection agencies, continue to refine a new mathematical model for use in guiding Tahoe Basin restoration efforts. Called the Lake Clarity Model, it can simulate the lake's response to various combinations of pollution types and amounts. This tool is currently being used to evaluate management strategies as part of the TMDL program.

The annual average Secchi measurements for the past several years were:

* 2000: 67.3 feet (20.5 meters)

* 2001: 73.6 feet (22.4 meters)

* 2002: 78 feet (23.8 meters)

* 2003: 71 feet (21.6 meters)

* 2004: 73.6 feet (22.4 meters)

* 2005: 72.4 feet (22.1 meters)

* 2006: 67.7 feet (20.6 meters)


USFS meeting Sept. 5


The Lake Tahoe Basin Federal Advisory Committee (LTFAC) is
scheduled to meet from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., September 5, 2007 at the USDA Forest Service, Emerald Bay Room, 35 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe, CA.
LTFAC will address issues related to federal activities at Lake Tahoe.
Items on the agenda include a presentation on the Status of the Lake Tahoe Basin Multi-Jurisdictional Fuel Reduction Plan, and an update on SNPLMA Round 8 Projects, followed by a Public Comment period.

LTFAC consists of 20 members representing a broad array of
constituencies. The Secretary of Agriculture chartered the first LTFAC in July 1998 to advise the Federal Partnership on programs and projects within the Lake Tahoe Basin. LTFAC’s charter has been renewed every two years with the most recent renewal occurring in June 2006. All Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public. Interested citizens are encouraged to attend. Issues may be brought to the attention
of the committee during the open public comment period at the meeting, or by filing a written statement with the committee through Arla Hains,USDA-Forest Service, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, 35 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe, CA, 96150. For more information on the Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Committee, visit the Forest Service web site at


Mt. Whitney development stopped

Fri, 31 Aug 2007 10:44:03 -0700

Advocates for Smart Growth

In an initial ruling released August 27 2007, the California Court of Appeals sided with Sierra Nevada conservationists and concluded that development approvals in the Mount Whitney Portal area violate state law.

The ruling clearly states, “The County failed to proceed in the manner required by law.” Once finalized, the Court action would overturn Inyo County approvals of the “Whitney Portal Preserve” project, a remote subdivision of 27 luxury homes along Whitney Portal Road , the sole paved access route for the tallest mountain in the continental United States .

SRVA Advocates for Smart Growth, the plaintiffs in the case, have long advocated for a better blueprint for development in the region. They argued that Inyo County decision-makers should have considered the possibility of a land swap, whereby the threatened landscape could be protected and growth could be focused closer to existing development.

The panel of judges agreed. “We agree with SRVA that the analysis of the land exchange alternative is legally insufficient and reverse on that ground," according to the initial decision.

“The proposed development was clearly an unacceptable threat to the Mount Whitney area and the Owens Valley ,” said Jennifer Fenton of the grassroots SRVA Advocates for Smart Growth. “We look forward to working with public agencies, private developers, and local residents to open a meaningful dialog and work on a resolution that honors the values of the region and protects the resources of the Sierra Nevada .”

State law requires that environmental review provide decision-makers with adequate information to assess the impacts of a proposed project, including alternatives to the proposal. But, according to the initial ruling, environmental review "…includes only the barest of facts…, vague and unsupported conclusions about aesthetics, views, and economic objectives, and no independent analysis whatsoever of relevant considerations.”

The decision is another important example of citizen action to stop illegal approvals of Sierra development. “We are delighted with this tentative ruling," said Tamara Galanter of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, counsel for SRVA. "The 45 page decision reflects a careful analysis of the applicable law and recognizes the importance of considering alternatives as part of the environmental review process"

Conservationists throughout California look to the proposed project as a dangerous precedent for leapfrog development in the fragile Eastern Sierra landscape. “This is an important victory for the entire Sierra Nevada ,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch. “It’s another great example of how people are standing up to defend the Sierra landscape – from Mount Whitney in the south to Dyer Mountain in Lassen County .”

Now conservationists will seek to work with the landowner to reach a collaborative resolution to the contentious issue. “Our goal was never simply to win a lawsuit,” said Fenton. “Our goal is to reach a win-win agreement that protects the land and encourages responsible development. We look forward to taking that next step.”

SRVA Advocates for Smart Growth is a non-profit organization working to promote sustainable development in the Eastern Sierra region. For more information, call (559)658-8189 or visit

# # #

SLT officer meets president

Keeping son's memory alive important to father

by Sheila Gardner,
August 31, 2007

Lovingly, painstakingly, Brad Williams traces the letters on his soldier son's grave at Eastside Memorial Park with water repellent.

With a father's hands, he dips a cotton swab and outlines "B-r-a-n-d-o-n," protecting the headstone from water runoff. The bottom of the marker reads, "Blessed are the peacemakers."

Williams visits his 21-year-old son's grave several times a week.

"It's kind of hard for a dad to let go," he said Wednesday as he tended the gravesite in Minden.

"This is my way to take care of him a little bit and think about him."

Pfc. Brandon Williams, a 2005 graduate of Douglas High School, was serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad, dispatched to Iraq in March 2006. He was assigned to the 4th Brigade Team in Fort Campbell, Ky.

It's been nearly a year since he was killed Oct. 6, 2006, by a sniper's bullet in Baghdad as he guarded explosive ordinance disposal personnel - a year of birthdays, holidays, a brother's wedding.

On Tuesday, Brad Williams and his son Aaron were among a group of families of fallen soldiers invited to meet privately with President George W. Bush during his visit to Reno where he addressed the American Legion convention.

For Williams, the session with the president was more like a visit with a friend than sitting down with a world leader.

"The president did just a great job bringing it down to the personal level," he said. "It was like a fireside chat, like we were sitting in each other's living room discussing things. There was no entourage or members of the Secret Service."

Williams, a South Lake Tahoe Police Department sergeant, was contacted last week by the White House and told that Bush would be in Reno and wanted to meet with families of fallen soldiers.

"They met with about 10 families, they split us up into groups and put us in smaller rooms," he said.

Williams' group included the family of Sgt. Anthony Schober, 23, who died in May. Schober also attended Douglas High School.

"We were the last of a group of three that the president spoke to, probably for about 45 minutes. During that time he talked to us as a group and individually. Aaron and I spoke with the president for a couple of minutes - just the three of us. It was a very moving experience," Williams said.

He said the president expressed appreciation for the families' sacrifices and was tearful at times, acknowledging that he made the decisions which cost their children's lives.

"All of us talked among ourselves about how grateful we were that the president of the United States and leader of the free world took time out of his schedule to search us out," Williams said.

"That says a lot to me about America and the president. He never invited the press, he's not up for re-election. He seemed to have a burden on his heart for the families of the fallen," Williams said.

The president had advice for Aaron Williams, 18, a senior at Whittell High School.

"He asked Aaron about his plans and Aaron talked a little about Brandon. The president said, 'Man, it has got to be tough to think about your brother like that.' Aaron said it was and the president said, 'Go and do something in honor of your brother.'

"I was very glad to have Aaron with me. He was very excited about it. I think he had a realization that there are millions upon millions of people who would love the honor of having the president's ear. At age 18, he did," Williams said.

The president handed out commemorative medals to the family members and personal cards.

"He said if we were in Washington in the next 15 months to come by, that he'd like to show us the Oval Office," Williams said. "It was a very special once-in-a-lifetime occurrence and I hope we made the most of it."

Since his son's death, Williams has met some of the soldiers who were with Brandon when he died and other members of his unit.

One of his Brandon's closest friends in uniform gave Brad Williams a red metal "mourning band" which he wears on his wrist.

"He was with Brandon when he was killed and helped carry his body," Williams said.

"A lot of guys when they lose their friends make a point of ordering these bracelets," he said.

Williams said he takes every opportunity to meet with other families who have lost loved ones.

"I've met several parents who have gone through this," he said. "We're all very supportive of each other even though we don't enjoy the common bond. Sometimes, I meet these families to see if I am ever going to be OK. No matter how long it's been, we seem to be stuck in the same stage of grief. But it's our kids."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Aug. 31 Angora chamber letter

Letter to South Shore Chamber members ...

Since June 24, 2007 when the Angora fire stormed through the west end of South Lake Tahoe, your Chamber staff has been hard at work juggling fire-related issues and staying the course to promote business and economic interests for our members.

The week of the fire while emergency personnel, city, county and state officials were busy handling the emergency the Chamber stepped in to help out in myriad ways. On Monday June 25th and throughout the week ongoing updates were emailed to the membership providing up to date, accurate, relevant and vital information about the status of the fire, business impacts and where to go to receive assistance or drop off donations. As a part of this effort we worked to counteract inaccurate information such as that disseminated by other organizations that stated businesses were being asked to close their doors and that the high school was on fire.

On Tuesday June 26th the Chamber convened the first of several emergency meetings comprised of local business leaders to discuss what steps could and should be taken by the business community. Of prime concern was the safety and well being of those directly impacted by the fire. Recognizing that the professionals were handling those issues our attention shifted to what we could do to stabilize the immediate and long term effects of the fire so that the community would not be burned twice by the Angora Fire.

Steps were immediately taken to open the Angora Fire Fund (Locals for Locals) with the first check coming from Lake side Inn and Casino in the amount of $5,000. The Chamber then coordinated a nationwide publicity campaign in order to give concerned individuals and corporations a way to make an immediate donation to a local organization. During the next two weeks we worked tirelessly to recruit exemplary community leaders to sit on the Angora Fire Fund Board (a separate 501(c) 3) in order to ethically, fairly and transparently distribute the funds we knew would generously be given. Additional information on the make-up of that Board and how to apply for assistance can be found at A press release is attached with more details and updated numbers.

Additional undertakings related to the fire during this time were:

· In partnership with the LTVA a massive PR campaign was undertaken to assure our expected July 4th and future visitors they could come to town and visit recreational facilities and sites as well as our town as the fire had not affected those areas. Special attention was made to emphasize that one of the key ways to support the South Shore community after the fire would be to visit and spend vacation dollars here. This effort is ongoing.

· The Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce presented several workshops and forums on fire-related topics of interest to the community and survivors such as the July 17th event attended by approximately 100 individuals.

· Organized the logistics, set up and in-kind donations for the Call Center during the American Century Golf Tournament and recruited the volunteers to staff the center for 3 days.

· In partnership with the South Tahoe Realtors Association worked to ensure that a list of temporary and long term accommodations (preferably not vacation rentals) was prepared and ready for the survivors as their needs arose

· In partnership with our North Shore Chamber Alliance members we were the first to advocate for the development of the Blue Ribbon Fire Commission approved by Governors Schwarzenegger and Gibbons. This Commission is scheduled to meet for the first time in September.

· The Chamber operated as a drop off center for donations.

· Chamber staff attended all Town Hall Meetings and many Press Conferences to ensure we had up to date and accurate information to disseminate via phone, fax & email.

· We continue to respond to individual requests for information from potential future business and leisure travelers.

· Continue to produce press releases, do interviews and answer media calls from out of the area in an effort to promote visitation and ongoing support for rebuilding.

· The Chamber became and still is functioning as a central resource information line for fire survivors and their concerned family and friends handling upwards of 40 fire related calls or visits every day.

·Worked to support and promote Assemblyman Ted Gaines community meeting.

·Attended Joint Fire Chief’s meeting to express the business owner’s concerns in regards to fire threats and fuels reduction.

·Secured donated web design services for and continue to provide updated information on the recovery efforts to the media and websites

·Chamber CEO and President “B” Gorman serves on the Angora Fire Fund Board attending weekly meetings and filling other functions as needed.

· Both the CA and NV Chamber offices are pick-up and drop off sites for Angora Fire Survivors for Fire Fund Applications.

· Hosted numerous meetings to facilitate the development of a Community Disaster Resource Center . The Chamber staff has again worked tirelessly to build a dedicated, talented and compassionate Board of Directors who will oversee this much needed organization to assist the survivors with their long term healing and rebuilding needs. The Community Disaster Resource Center Board has begun to move forward in its efforts to have a full time center up and staffed in the very near future. This center will serve as a home base for Survivors who will be able to meet with case workers, learn the whereabouts of their neighbors, and get updated on resources available, meetings of importance and issues relevant to their recovery.

·The Chamber served as a distribution source for free insurance inventory guides and provide links to mentors and organizations that assist survivors with insurance challenges.

·The Chamber staff has worked with County officials to protect and promote the reputation of existing Chamber members who offer myriad services needed by the survivors in their rebuilding efforts. Similarly the Chamber has supported the State and County in their efforts to ensure that only qualified corporations are working in the fire zone so that homeowners are not subjected to unscrupulous practices.

Chamber staff members have also continued daily operations to assist membership with various issues, host workshops, after-hours mixers and promote economic and business interests to local political leaders including our recent proposal for a Wayfinding Signage Program for the South Shore which was approved by a 3-2 vote of City Council.

We have strived each and every day to respond to each and every request and to provide our service and expertise when we saw a need. We trust that you continue to be proud to be a member of just such an organization and recognize that it is your investment that enables us to continue to promote the community and work towards building a stronger economy.


“B” Gorman, Nancy Kerry & Pam Ross-Osinski

Bicycle Film Fest -- Sept. 8

Lake Tahoe Bicycle Film Festival to Help Build Bike Community

Lake Tahoe Bicycle Film Festival builds community bike culture and helps raise funds for the regional bicycle advocacy organization, Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition. The film festival features the pioneers of mountain biking and raises awareness about the important role bicycling can play for public health, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and transform communities to be more people centric. The bicycle coalition's vision is to transform the region into a healthy and sustainable bioregion. The film festival is a communications platform to increase public awareness and support for such a vision.

South Lake Tahoe, CA/NV (PRWEB) August 30, 2007 -- The first Lake Tahoe Bicycle Film Festival will debut here in South Lake Tahoe on Saturday, September 8, 2007 from 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM at the Horizon's Hotel Casino Sequoia Room. The purpose of the event is help build a regional bicycle culture and raise funds for the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition.

The Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition (LTBC) is a nonprofit organization founded in late 2005 for the purpose of building a bicycle friendly Lake Tahoe. In September 2005, the city of South Lake Tahoe, California was awarded the national designation, Bicycle Friendly Community, by the League of American Bicyclists as a result of the leadership and commitment made by the Coalition.

Additionally, the LTBC produced the first Lake Tahoe Bicycle Trial Map in collaboration with the Tahoe Daily Tribune and other sponsors. This free user-friendly trail map is currently being distributed trhougout the Tahoe region and has become popular among both cyclists and hikers. The maps are available at Chambers of Commerce, Visitor Centers, Marriott's Timber Lodge and most bicycle shops throughout the region. The map can also be downloaded from

The film festival is produced by Entersport Marketing, a longtime sport/lifestyle marketing agency. One hundred percent of the event's proceeds go to the Coalition to help advance its mission.

The film festival will "celebrate cycling and the spirit that makes us ride", says film festival producer Ty Polastri. The festival features a wide spectrum of bicycling films, from the early development of mountain biking to behind the scenes of the Tour de France and more. Two recent film releases, "Klunkerz" and SingleTrack Minds" specifically focus on the early technological development of mountain biking and trail use issues in Marin County, California. In "Klunkerz", the festival attendees will view historical footage covering mountain biking's early pioneers, Gary Fisher (Fisher Mt. Bikes) Tom Ritchey (Ritchey Logic), Charlie Cunningham (Wilderness Trail Bikes), Joe Breeze (Breezer Bikes), Otis Guy (Otis Guy cycles) and many more as they descend Mount Tamalpais on their original fat tire clunkers.

Tickets are ten dollars ($10.00) and may be purchased at the door or at the following locations:
Tahoe Sports LTD, 4000 Lake Tahoe Blvd (Raley's Shopping Center), South Tahoe Visitors Center, 3066 Lake Tahoe Bovd (across street from Tahoe Daily Tribune), and Pearl Izumi Outlet located at the "Y", 2018 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

Companies and agencies contributing to the event production include the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency,, and the Lake Tahoe Media Center.

For more information, contact Tyrone Polastri, 530-586-8566 or cell phone 415-259-8577. E-mail address is


Monday, August 27, 2007

Angora Fire -- Edgewood Golf helps survivors

Local Special at Edgewood

As announced on NBC during the American Celebrity Championship, Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course and Park Cattle Company will be donating proceeds from all green fees collected on Labor Day September 3, 2007 to the

Angora Fire Fund “Locals for Locals”

For locals who wish to help their fellow residents in need and enjoy the beauty of Edgewood, a special rate of $100 will be offered to residents of the Lake Tahoe basin. This special rate is available on a first come first served basis on tee times starting after 12 PM. (A local driver’s license will be required as proof of residency.)

To make a tee time, call the Edgewood golf shop at (775) 588-3566.

Thank you for helping Edgewood and Park Cattle Company support our local community.

Deputies kill bear near South Lake

August 27, 2007
On this date at about 3:30 a.m., El Dorado Sheriff’s Deputies from the Lake Tahoe Station responded to a call for service in the Christmas Valley area.

The caller stated that a bear was inside his residence and that he and his dog were barricaded in a bedroom. According to the caller, the bear entered through the sliding rear door and was still in the kitchen. The first deputy to arrive entered the residence
through the front door and used proven tactics of stomping his feet and yelling in an effort to encourage the bear to leave through the open sliding door.

Instead of leaving, the bear charged the deputy. The deputy shot twice at the bear in self-defense. After the initial shots were fired, the bear turned and headed out the open sliding door only to turn again and charge the deputy once more. The deputy fired one more shot at the bear after which the bear left the residence.

With additional responding Sheriff’s personnel arriving on the scene, a search was conducted. The mortally wounded bear was located in the backyard of the residence and destroyed. The bear was large for a female and estimated at approximately 300 pounds. It was later learned that two small bear cubs were also at the residence. This may explain the bear’s unusual aggressive behavior. The cubs were safely captured and are currently in the care and custody of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Inc.

While the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office regrets being placed into a position of taking lethal action upon wildlife, we would like to utilize this opportunity to remind locals and visitors that the Tahoe Basin is bear habitat. We encourage responsible activities to discourage bears from feeding in or about neighborhoods. For more information on bear behavior please contact
the Bear League at telephone number (530) 525-7297.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Angora Fire -- Heavenly sells chairlifts for survivors

Retired Olympic Chairs Go On Sale!
Ever wanted to take a piece of Heavenly home with you? Now’s your chance. We are selling the old Olympic double chairs to benefit the Angora Fire Fund. The old chairs used the old wooden slats (as opposed to the new all-metal constructions) and will give your home/business an exclusively “Tahoe” feel. The sale starts Wednesday, Aug 29 at the California Lodge and runs through Monday, September 3.

General Public Sale:

$200 each, tax deductible, limit 2 chairs per person; all proceeds go to the Angora Fire Fund

Wednesday, August 29 – Monday, September 3

9:00 AM – 3:00 PM California Ticket Windows / Upstairs Burton Building, California

On Wednesday 8/29, the sale will be open to the public and we will sell chairs through a ticket window at the California Lodge. On Thursday and Friday we will do sales upstairs in the Burton Building. Saturday through Monday, the California ticket office will reopen for sales during the Labor Day Tent Sale.

All Chair Sales:

Payment must be cash or check. Please make all checks payable to the Angora Fire Fund.
No reservations will be taken: all sales are on a first-come first-served basis.
Payment followed by immediate pick-up is required. We won’t hold chairs for later pick-up.
You cannot choose which chair number you receive.
We won’t ship chairs.
Chairs are approximately 9 feet tall by 4 feet wide, and weigh about 90 pounds. Anyone buying a chair must come equipped with an appropriate vehicle or trailer, tie-downs, flagging if needed, and a helper to assist loading.
Heavenly staff will not load chairs onto vehicles or tie them down.
All chairs are sold as-is. Chair pads are not included.
All sales are final. No refunds, returns, exchanges, or warranties.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Angora Fire -- Aug. 27 Schwarzenegger statement

Friday, August 24, 2007

Governor Schwarzenegger today commended the extraordinary job made by local and state officials and contract debris removal employees for their unprecedented debris clean-up efforts following the Angora Fire in South Lake Tahoe . The crews in charge of the effort will have completed the debris clean up within approximately 40 days-- one week ahead of the scheduled September 1 deadline.

"The devastation I witnessed on June 27 was overwhelming. Without any doubt, the Angora fire was one of the worst fires in Lake Tahoe 's history," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "I commend the hard work and cooperation taken by all levels of government to help these victims rebuild as soon as possible and ensuring the Lake Tahoe Basin remains as safe as it is beautiful.

"The men and women of the debris removal project have shown great commitment to the people of Lake Tahoe and have demonstrated that through cooperation and determination, anything is possible."

Governor Schwarzenegger has been engaged in the response efforts since the Angora Fire began by visiting the fire zone on three separate occasions, issuing two executive orders, requesting the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provide their Disaster Loan Program assistance to the Angora fire victims, and signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons to create the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission.

Since the remediation activities began on July 16, 2007, the California Integrated Waste Management Board, part of the California Environmental Protection Agency, amended an existing contract with a solid waste remediation contractor to remove the structural debris and ash created by the Angora fire.

Of the 257 properties that were destroyed, all the property owners-- a remarkable 100 percent participation-- have taken advantage of the debris removal program. Nearly 60,000 tons of debris has been removed - 629 tons of metal and nearly 6,000 tons of concrete have been delivered for recycling.

"The State of California has risen to the occasion to do what has never been done before. By taking decisive and quick action on multiple fronts, this coordinated response with public and private partners helped get people back on track and rebuild this community. The effort to alleviate the devastation of the fire and environmental impacts on the Tahoe Basin has been a remarkable success," continued the Governor.

On July 25, 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger and Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission, a panel of 17 voting members that represent each State's stake in the responsible management of lands and fire fuels within the Tahoe Basin, including representatives from affected state agencies, fire agencies and the public. They also requested the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to designate one person from the United States Forest Service to serve on the commission.

The commission is performing a comprehensive review of the laws, policies and practices that affect the vulnerability of the Tahoe Basin to wildfires. It is also studying various user-friendly approaches to reducing the threat of wildfires while protecting the environment. It will submit a report and recommendations to the two governors by March 21, 2008.

On July 4, 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger sent a letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) requesting that El Dorado County be declared a disaster area in order to provide SBA Disaster Loan Program assistance to Angora Fire victims. The request was granted and will qualify victims of the Angora Fire for low income loans of up to $200,000 for homeowners to repair or replace their damaged or destroyed primary residence. Also, homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. Businesses of any size and private non-profit organizations may borrow up to $1.5 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. The loans are available for homeowners, renters and business owners whose property was damaged or destroyed in the fire.

Governor Schwarzenegger announced the establishment of a Local Assistance Center on June 26, 2007 to help provide state and local services to assist victims displaced by the wildfire, suffering property loss and economic and other damages. The next day, Governor Schwarzenegger toured the fire-damaged areas with Lt. Governor John Garamendi, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons. They met with firefighters and local officials and were joined by Resources Agency Secretary Mike Chrisman, Office of Emergency Services Director Henry Renteria and CalFIRE Deputy Director for Fire Protection Ken McLean.

Governor Schwarzenegger has issued two executive orders to help victims of the wildfire recover. On June 27, 2007, he issued an executive order to assist individuals that suffered losses by waiving fees for replacing state documents lost in the fire including vehicle registrations, driver's licenses and birth certificates. He also issued Executive Order S-09-07 on July 2, 2007 to help victims clean up and rebuild as quickly as possible by streamlining, and in some cases suspending, certain state rules regarding the removal and disposal of both hazardous and non-hazardous debris as well as dead and dying trees.

As a result of this disaster, El Dorado County proclaimed a local emergency on June 24, 2007 and subsequently requested state and federal assistance. In response to El Dorado County 's request, a proclamation for a State of Emergency was issued on June 25, 2007.

The Angora Fire began on June 24, 2007 in the North Upper Truckee area in South Lake Tahoe , California and was fully contained on July 2, 2007.

Schwarzenegger tackles global warming

Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Eight states and provinces behind the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) established a common goal to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Governor Schwarzenegger announced today. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gases by 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, which reflects the cumulative total of individual reduction goals for each state and province. The total reductions are expected to exceed 350 million metric tons.

The WCI was established earlier this year when Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a Memorandum of Understanding with four other states to partner in the fight against climate change.

"Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. California is proud to be among the Western Climate Initiative partners taking this important step to establish the most comprehensive regional greenhouse gas emission reduction goal in North America ," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "Our collective commitment will build a successful regional system to be linked with other efforts across the nation and eventually the world."

Recognizing the need to respond immediately to the potential impacts of global warming, states and provinces are joining together to establish complementary greenhouse gas reduction programs to ensure maximum environmental benefits. In the absence of federal action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, states and provinces are leading the way.

The WCI is a historic effort to collaborate climate action efforts between U.S. states and Canadian provinces in the Western part of North America . The agreement was originally signed by the Governors of Arizona , California , New Mexico , Oregon and Washington at the 2007 National Governor's Association Winter meeting in Washington , D.C. on Feb. 26, 2007. Utah and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and British Columbia also have joined.

Additionally, several states and provinces are observing the WCI proceedings including Colorado , Kansas , Nevada , Wyoming , Sonora , Mexico , and Ontario and Quebec , Canada . To join, partner states and provinces must be willing to agree to the principles of the original initiative, as well as the goals outlined in the goals statement.

Within the next year, the WCI will publish a proposal for establishing a regional carbon emissions trading system. The proposal will be a resource for the California Air Resources Board, which is ultimately responsible for considering, developing and implementing an emissions trading system in California .

The WCI complements California 's implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) by bringing together partners outside of California to work on a parallel track to lay the groundwork for a regional carbon emissions trading system. The WCI allows states and provinces to better anticipate and correct potential linkage challenges when developing their own greenhouse gas reduction programs so they can obtain the maximum environmental benefit.

Last September, the Governor signed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, California 's landmark bill that established a first-in-the-world comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases. In California , the law will reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Governor Schwarzenegger has also called for the state to reduce carbon emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

In January of this year, the Governor also announced the world's first Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) for transportation fuels that requires fuel providers to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels sold in California . This first-of-its kind standard firmly establishes sustainable demand for lower-carbon fuels but without favoring one fuel over another. By 2020, the standard will reduce the carbon intensity of California 's passenger vehicle fuels by at least 10 percent.


Angora Fire Fund Update

August 23, 2007

South Lake Tahoe, CA As the days after the fire add up so too are the donations from South Shore businesses and organizations being made to the Angora Fire Fund (AFF) originally known as Locals for Locals. Among the local businesses demonstrating generosity: Lake Tahoe Development Co. ($75,000), Embassy Suites ($10,000), Ross Dress for Less ($2,000), Tahoe Sand & Gravel, Inc. ($1,000), Feldman Shaw ($1,000), All About Tahoe Realty ($500) and Mountain Girl, Inc. ($532).

Angora Fire Fund Board Member, “B” Gorman shared the following. “Several local businesses have worked to include their employees and or customers in their fundraising efforts. This is a wonderful way to keep the needs of the fire survivors at the forefront of our minds and build community spirit as we work towards long term recovery and rebuilding. A great example of this is the effort undertaken at Lakeland Village where Lakeland and their parent company Premier Resorts put together a matching program whereby if a company employee made a donation Premier would match. The employees donated $1587 and the company matched that amount and thus the total contribution to the Angora Fire Fund was $3174.”

“In addition to corporate checks and individual donors there continue to be events taking place throughout the Basin hosted by a variety of organizations stepping in to help the survivors. This week we’ve received over $5,400 from the benefit concert hosted by Harrah’s (more to follow) and $400 from John Denver’s Windstar California Connection event held at Tahoe Valley Campground this past weekend. There have been several other events publicized as benefiting the Angora Fire survivors.”

“The fund was set up to receive and distribute funds locally so that clubs, corporations and individuals would have a place to put their donations without worrying about whether a large percentage of the contributions would be spent on administrative costs.” Board Member Wendy David said. “The fund does not employ any staff nor does it pay for office space. A recent example of an organization moving their funds to the AFF was South Lake Tahoe’s City Council voting on Tuesday August 21st to forward $6,681 received by the City to the Lake Tahoe Angora Fire Fund.”

“As of August 17th the sum of funds banked was $252,352 and checks totaling $71,000 have been mailed to fire survivors to assist them in beginning to rebuild their lives. The Board of eleven members meets every Thursday afternoon to review applications and mails out checks on Fridays.” added Board Member John Packer. “Another round of checks will be mailed on Friday August 24th.”

“The Angora Fire Fund is currently accepting applications and distributing funds to fire survivors who lost their primary residence. Upon verification of residency funds are being distributed up to maximum of $1,000 per household to assist with immediate needs. Households that received $500 of the AFF money via the Sierra Community Church may be eligible to receive up to another $500 based upon their immediate needs. Fire survivors who have immediate needs must submit their applications for this round of funding prior to August 30th. Applications are available at either the California or Nevada Visitor Centers or at any Board Member’s Business. Board Members are listed on and the application is also available on the website. Applications can be mailed to the post office box or given to any Board Member in a sealed envelope. Information about the specific applicants is considered confidential and will not be made public.”

A second distribution round for long term needs will commence this autumn based upon available resources. A new application is not necessary to be considered for additional funds.

“We are optimistic that the fund will grow for that second round based upon promises received from several sources and inquiries from a number of organizations. Additionally, the Chamber of Commerce did a mailing to all of its members last week offering them the opportunity to contribute to the community’s healing by helping the survivors directly.” David continued. We believe additional organizations will utilize the infrastructure established by the Angora Fire Fund “Locals for Locals” as they deal with the inherent challenges of trying to establish criteria and distribute funds. Equally as important, this would eliminate the need for families to complete multiple applications on top of the myriad forms they are required to do for insurance claims and rebuilding. In order to help us provide meaningful assistance we are encouraging those who have not yet made a donation to please consider donating to the Fund. On behalf of the Board and all of the survivors we thank those who have already generously donated.”

Donations are being accepted to the Angora Fire Fund in the following ways: online at ; in person at any US Bank or mail to the Angora Fire Fund (Locals for Locals) PO Box 17640, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96151.

For further information please visit the website or contact any of the board members.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Aug. 22-23 Angora benefit

From the Nevada Appeal

Sierra Nevada Ballet will present A Celebration of Genius II, Aug. 22-23. They will be donating 30 percent of all ticket sales to help the victims of Lake Tahoe’s devastating Angora fire.

The performance is part of the annual Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, set at Sand Harbor State Park. It features a variety of dance, including ballet, tap and contemporary, performed by international dance stars such as Domingo Rubio, Eugene Petrov and Sam Weber, the “fastest feet in tap.” A Celebration of Genius II includes "The Unicorn, The Gorgon and The Manticore," a ballet with spectacular historic costumes and a humorous, timeless story. Audiences will also enjoy "Percussivlund," a fast-paced, original choreographic piece performed to music that uses percussive instruments only.

Ticket prices for A Celebration of Genius II begin at $14 and 30 percent of all sales will go toward helping the Angora fire victims. For tickets, call the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at 800-74-SHOWS or visit For more information about Sierra Nevada Ballet, visit

TRPA forms wildfire panel

Posted: 8/23/2007

Four days after five more Lake Tahoe homes were destroyed by wildfire, land-use regulators scrambled Wednesday to begin making changes to ease regulations that some critics insist stand in the way of preventing fires at the lake.

Governors of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency established a committee to begin an urgent review of agency regulations related to the removal or thinning of trees and brush, with an emphasis on overgrown stream areas.

The aim is to work toward needed change ahead of a committee formed by Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after the disastrous Angora Fire that destroyed 254 homes in one June day near South Lake Tahoe. By March, that panel must recommend policy changes to make Tahoe safer from fire.

The issue was given extra urgency Saturday, when another fire erupted in a wooded Tahoe neighborhood at Sunnyside, burning another five homes on Tahoe's western shore. A wildfire consumed 100 acres near Donner Lake after the board met Wednesday.

"We lost five homes. It could have been many, many more," said Bruce Kranz, Placer County member of the TRPA board and the representative of the fire area.

Kranz implored board members to aggressively pursue changes to make fire protection projects easier than regulations currently allow.

"All I'm saying is we better get our act together," Kranz said. "This is urgent. We need to move with it now."

Kranz submitted a letter to TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub recommending "immediate action" in several areas:

Authorize the use of environmentally sensitive mechanical equipment to clean out thick growth in so-called "stream environment zones," which Kranz said "serve as wicks" for rapid spread of fires.

Change TRPA regulations to "fully enforce" existing California regulations regarding vegetation clearance around structures. Kranz favors some level of treatment extending at least 100 feet. TRPA officials agreed Wednesday that regulations should be uniform throughout the Tahoe Basin.

Allow homeowners to remove dead trees and small trees greater in diameter than the current limit of 6 inches without a permit.

"We have to recognize public safety has to come first," Kranz said.

Coe Swobe, a former Nevada lawmaker and Nevada at-large member of the board, will chair the TRPA committee. Other members will be local elected officials from Nevada and California counties and South Lake Tahoe.

Discussion Wednesday centered whether the committee would be a new and unnecessary level of bureaucracy and conflict with the goals of the panel created by the governors that will meet Sept. 10.

Swobe said Gibbons told him Tuesday the goals of both groups are compatible.

"He said go for it, and I am going to go for it," said Swobe, who previously argued for creation of a TRPA wildfire committee but failed to win support.

"I think it's time we start a new course and a new beginning," Swobe said, arguing the need to "get the bureaucracy out of the way."

El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago, who represents the Angora Fire area, called the committee's creation a "message of our commitment."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Angora Fire-- one man's journey

Unedited 08-07 Tahoe Mt. News story

Editor’s note: This is a monthly article about one of the hundreds of people who lost their homes because of the Angora Fire.

By Kathryn Reed

A screwdriver.
That little tool nearly sent John Mauriello over the edge one day. Not having one made the simple task of assembling a computer desk a lengthy process by the time he went to the store to buy one and emotionally came to grips with the fact he has no tools.
Rebuilding is taking on meanings Mauriello is only beginning to understand. His was one of more than 250 houses lost in the Angora Fire as it swept through his Mount Olympia Circle neighborhood.
The 68-year-old is rebuilding one day at time. It encompasses inventorying what was lost, creating a new address book, figuring what he wants his next home to look like, acquiring a wardrobe, assembling important papers he’d never imagined would be part of his life, rebuilding a routine – something he says isn’t happening just yet.
“It’s not just the losses, but the psychological damage. The rug of security gets yanked from you. I’m still having horrible dreams at night … waking up at 3 in the morning,” Mauriello said.
Attending meetings
Sitting in the second row, wearing the Adidas cap he fled his house with on that horrific day, Mauriello listens to the dozen or so speakers July 23 at South Tahoe High School.
Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, has assembled the cast of characters to tell the 300 plus people what their respective agencies are doing about fire and fuel reduction and what might be done differently in the future.
Mauriello was one of 23 people to ask a question. His concerns center on educating the public about fire.
“Why has the silence of this investigation been deafening?” he asked in regards to the illegal campfire that ignited the 3,100 acre blaze.
The panel did not respond to anyone’s questions.
Mauriello hung around to talk to neighbors. He was disappointed in the meeting. He had hoped more specific needs of victims would have been addressed.
He wants more education about fire danger, adding that a wooden bear with a sign is merely ignored as people speed by. He wants programs from preschool into college.
“I see people on Lake Tahoe Boulevard smoking. I say please keep your cigarette in your car. She had a Keep Lake Tahoe Blue bumper sticker,” Mauriello said of his efforts to do his part to teach people. He said his words aren’t always well received.
A helping hand
When told some people around town are talking trash about victims and how much they are reaping from insurance companies and all the fund raisers, Mauriello got steamed.
“I’d gladly trade places with any one of them,” he said.
Yes, his Hartford insurance through the AARP has been good so far. But a settlement is from being inked. They sent a check for this charred BMW. It’s in the bank for now.
Yes, the Angora Fire Fund wrote him a check for $500. It helped pay off his credit card bill that had a computer, printer, chair and desk on the bill.
Yes, he went shopping with a woman from the Lion’s Club at Sports Ltd. where he got a winter jacket. It’s his only piece of warm clothing. A pair of hiking boots is on order. He’s paying for part of it.
Yes, he was in the Miller’s Outpost parking lot on July 25 looking for clothes. He got a couple of XL shirts but couldn’t find shorts in his size. While others made his stomach turn as they clamored to take cases of food products, he left with two potatoes, a can of peaches and some coffee. (The giveaway was fire victims and low income residents.)
“I’ve never been on the receiving end in my life. I’ve been giving my whole life,” Mauriello said. “It’s not a question of satisfying your wants, it’s satisfying your needs. I’m wearing used clothing.”
As of the first full week of August, he had received about $2,000 in donations. Even the insurance company will reimburse him for things, it won’t cover everything.
He applied for a Small Business Administration loan but was denied because he spends more than he takes in as a retiree.
Mauriello had hoped to pay off his 6.25 percent loan on the house (no house doesn’t mean payments go away) in exchange for a 2 percent loan from the SBA.
South Tahoe Refuse sent him a check for $29.34 because he didn’t have garbage service at his house anymore.
Temporary lodging
By July 13, he was in a rental with his four cats. They have adjusted to the new, albeit, smaller living quarters.
Cable has been installed.
The computer with Internet is up and running.
Trips to stores here and off the hill have been made to slowly rebuild the essentials.
The 800-square-foot two-bedroom house came with basic furnishings. He planned to see if The Attic has a small chest of drawers for socks and things.
“It’s a nice place, with a beautiful backyard that overlooks a meadow,” Mauriello said.
Moving on
Mauriello hopes to have some major decisions made by the end of the month about the type of house he wants to build and a contractor lined up.
His lot has long since been cleared of debris. On Aug. 5, of the seven items El Dorado County and the state Environmental Protection Agency must sign-off on, all that were left were erosion control and county approval.
Each burned lot in the fire zone has a stake with seven items listed and whether they’ve been accomplished. The other items in order are: photo documentation, impacted area, foundation verification, removal complete and confirmation sampling.
Tree removal has started on his street, though the charred timber stood tall on his lot as of press time. They were either marked with a blue line or yellow dot. It smells even more like a campfire there than it did a month ago.
A dumpster sits in the barren dirt. It’s hard to know a home once stood there. An American flag stuck in the dirt blows in the gentle wind.
A house around the corner that was unscathed has a sign saying, “Neighbors come back.”
Mauriello intends to.
He’s been scouring the Internet for home designs. Builders have been recommended. He wants to use as many locals as possible. He would like the foundation in by Sept. 1 so framing could be done in the fall and work on the inside done through the winter.
“I’ve talked to a neighbor who said there are going to be a lot of interesting landscaping pieces,” Mauriello said. The sound board from his grand piano will be one of those items.

August 07 EIP update

Unedited 08-07 Tahoe Mt. News story

By Kathryn Reed

President Bill Clinton got the ball rolling to bring billions of dollars to Lake Tahoe to improve the environment.
His visit with then VP Al Gore in 1997 was the impetus for the Environment Improvement Program. As of 2006, $1.1 billion has been spent on the basin’s ecosystem.
The federal government has allocated $293 million, California $446 million, Nevada $82 million, local governments $53.4 million and $216 million has come from private sources.
Clinton will be at the 11th annual Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum hosted by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village on Aug. 17.
Joining the Senate majority leader will be Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Emceeing the event will be ex-Silver State Sen. Richard Bryan.
Other possible attendees include the EPA chief, governors of both states, and the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior. Gore has been invited.
“Our commitment to the Lake’s conservation takes shape in the form of EIP projects. These projects repair damage to water and air quality, forest health, fish and wildlife, recreation and scenic views,” the TRPA says in the just published EIP progress report.
Eight categories receive money, with water quality the largest benefactor at 50 percent of the funds. Air quality-transportation has received 23 percent of the money, soil conservation 7 percent, vegetation 6 percent, 5 percent to both recreation and scenic resources, 2 percent to both fisheries and wildlife.
The four-page document says, “Over the last three years, funding for forest health and vegetation projects has increased dramatically and will continue to help reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire.”
The report touts accomplishments that include:
• 21,293 acres being treated for restoration or fuels reduction
• 20 percent reduction in vehicle traffic in the Stateline area because of increased public transit
• Construction of 127 miles of new trails
• 2,388 linear feet of shoreline have been acquired for public use
• $48 million spent on research and monitoring
• 26 miles of state highways being treated for stormwater runoff
• 25 projects completed or planned to restore Upper Truckee River watershed
• More than 3,000 acres of sensitive land have been acquired
• Nearly 750 acres of wetland have been restored

“Future challenges include escalating construction costs that are raising the bar for future projects. Additionally, more recent information tells us that a greater sustained commitment is required to make measurable progress,” the report says. “The Environmental Improvement Program is the key to repairing past damage and minimizing today’s impacts.”
Also coming out of the presidential forum was the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act.
Feinstein’s website says, “To restore the Lake Tahoe Basin, the Federal Government has joined with California, Nevada and the Tahoe community and has embarked upon a 10-year, $900 million cleanup effort. As part of this partnership, Congress approved the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, which I sponsored along with Senators Richard Bryan, Harry Reid, and Barbara Boxer, authorizing $300 million to be spent on restoration efforts. This legislation was signed into law on November 13, 2000.”
When asked at a meeting earlier this month about fuels reduction where that money is, Forest Service spokesman Rex Norman said it’s one thing to say let’s help Lake Tahoe and it’s a completely different matter when it comes to writing the checks.
The most recent press release on the senator’s website about the LT Restoration Act is from September 2003.

Angora Fire--where is the money

Unedited 08-07 Tahoe Mt. News story

Big bucks being raised

By Kathryn Reed

How much money is given to the hundreds of South Shore residents displaced by the Angora Fire may never be known.
Multitudes of fundraisers have occurred since the inferno began June 24. More are planned. Victims have received unknown quantities of cash and goods from friends.
The needs were immediate – food, clothing and shelter. They were secondary – a computer, tools and vehicles. They will be ongoing – rebuilding in the physical and emotional sense.
There is no “big brother” to make sure all the money raised goes to the purpose donors intended. If someone believes funds have been misappropriated, they should file a complaint with the police or sheriff’s departments. Then the district attorney’s office will get involved.
As of press time, no complaints had been filed.
Many people and groups are raising money. Here are what some have done or plan to do:
Red Cross (
To date, the American Red Cross has collected the most amount of money for the Angora relief effort -- $610,004.
Courtney Miller with the Sacramento-Sierra Chapter said even in early August the agency was still accessing its Angora budget. She didn’t know what it cost to operate the evacuation center at the city Recreation Center or what might be leftover.
Miller did say the Red Cross helped 205 people, served more than 10,000 meals and snacks, and provided more than 210 cleanup kits to victims.
The Red Cross is not a replacement for insurance coverage. The nonprofit arrives at disasters to help with food, shelter, emotional support including counseling, basic first aid and cleanup supplies.
When Angora was raging the Red Cross was also assisting with the Texas and Midwest floods, and fires in Utah and Alaska.
“The services of the American Red Cross are free based on the generosity of others who’ve donated,” said Jenny Carrick of the regional Red Cross chapter. The agency prefers donations directed to the national disaster fund instead of to a specific tragedy.
All funds earmarked for Angora will be spent in Tahoe. After paying its bills here, the Red Cross will use the remaining money for long-term recovery needs.
Miller said employees will meet with the 205 clients to determine their needs, and work with them as well as with other agencies in town to determine how best to distribute whatever funds it has left.
Lake Tahoe Angora Fire Fund (
The South Shore chamber almost immediately started Local for Locals which evolved into the nonprofit Angora Fire Fund. Rotarian Mark Lucksinger presides over the fund that is no longer chamber based.
Through August it will be doling out checks each Friday to victims who have filled out an application and need immediate help. Then, more long-term needs will be assessed.
The first round of about $23,000 went out July 27, with another nearly $30,000 worth of checks written Aug. 3.
“Our mission statement says we are trying to support local residents,” Lucksinger said. “We are not attempting to reach second homeowners. We want people who were living here – owners or tenants.”
The bank account fluctuates as donations come in and money is doled out.
The initial $10,000 in handouts was filtered through Sierra Community Church because the Angora Fire Fund didn’t have its 501(c)3 status and Rex McQuillen is affiliated with both entities. Lucksinger said religion played no roll in who got money.
Of the initial 25 applicants, 16 demonstrated an immediate need for cash. Individuals were given $500 and families $1,000.
“Immediate needs include clothing, food, furniture, tools, general living expenses,” Lucksinger said. “Many of them have lost income where they were off work for a period of time during and immediately after the fire. They just need income assistance to get by.”
Long-term needs are likely to be known once people settle with insurance companies and find out if they are underinsured.
Lucksinger said the bulk of the nearly $200,000 in the bank is from locals. More is pledged, including $75,000 from Heavenly Mountain Resort. Lake Tahoe Development’s $75,000 check has been cashed, as has the $5,000 from the local Moose Lodge.
The account is likely to remain open another year based on what comes in and what goes out.
“We will make every effort o reach everybody (burned out),” Lucksinger said.
Education fund (PO Box 13206, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96151)
About $40,000 has been pledged to the South Tahoe Educators Association to help fire victims. The money will likely be distributed to the 12 teachers, one administrator, six classified and three retirees who were burned out.
“A group of three of us will look at the requests we get and put the money where it’s needed. What we’ve done is we raised enough money to send everybody something initially and then we’ve asked people what else they need,” said Mike Patterson with the local teachers’ union. “We will accept money through the calendar year. We’re not sure if we’ll go beyond that. It depends on what people need.”
The week after the fire he was in Philadelphia for the National Education Association meeting. He brought home $15,000 for the relief fund.
Barton Memorial (530-543-5617)
Fifteen families associated with Barton Memorial Hospital lost their homes this summer. Immediately they were given $750 through the hospital’s Friends in Need Fund.
That fund was established years ago for employees who need help financially. Payroll deductions fuel it.
Normally employees apply for the money. The fire was the exception to that rule.
The Washington state company that prints the company’s newsletter donated $5,000 to the fund.
Spokeswoman Denise Sloan said the thousands of dollars given to the hospital to be spent on community fire relief efforts has been given to the Angora Fire Fund.
South Tahoe Realtors
Nearly $50,000 has been given to the South Tahoe Association of Realtors to help fire victims. The money will be distributed to members, their employees or people associated with the real estate industry like those working for title companies.
The largest contribution -- $25,000 – came from the Nevada Association of Realtors.
The South Lake agency is partnering with the El Dorado Community Foundation, an established nonprofit, so legal and tax issues are met.
“(Distribution) is going to be based on need,” said Cheryl Murakami, president of the local association.
One year-round and four seasonal employees at Sierra-at-Tahoe lost their homes. Booth Creek, the parent company, has given more than $15,000 to the victims.
The ski resort has partnered with News10 in Sacramento in an online raffle called Help Begins at Home. The $3,000 will be split between the Angora Fire Fund and Keep Tahoe Safe with Defensible Space.
Another $600 had been collected to buy grocery gift cards for “friends of Sierra” – workers and season pass holders.
“Besides collecting donations for the grocery cards, we are planning a fundraising event for the beginning of the season with lots of giveaways,” said spokeswoman Kirsten Cattell.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Two Kirkwood employees lost their homes and others were evacuated. About $20,000 has been raised for fire relief, according to spokesman Allon Cohne. Some will go directly to Kirkwood workers, some is likely to reach the Red Cross and Angora Fire Fund.
The future
Lt. Marty Hackett with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department said his agency will help coordinate a meeting this month to assemble organizations which are distributing money.
“We will facilitate their discussion so they have an opportunity to share their own information on how they are doing things,” Hackett said. “We will see what kind of coordination they want to have among themselves.”
Because of the limited building season in the basin, it could be 2009 before people move into a permanent home. This means long-term needs will be ongoing for some time.
“We know more fundraising will need to be done,” Hackett said.
Immediate fundraisers include the Aug. 19 concert put on by Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room and Jesse Kalin. The leader of Cool Black Kettle has assembled a slew of bands to perform that night.
The $20 entry fee, raffle and silent auction proceeds will go to the Angora Fire Fund.
Some of the bands playing that night include the Shamus Band, Lavish Green, 5 O’clock Charlie and Jeff Jones Band.
Guitars signed by Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride and Fergie will be in the silent auction
On Aug. 24 the South Shore Chamber is sponsoring a 3 p.m. shotgun start for a golf and dinner tournament. The money goes to the Angora fund.
To register, call (530) 577-0788, ext. 7 or go to the pro shop at Lake Tahoe Golf Course.

Tahoe-USFS fuel reduction plan

Unedited 08-07 Tahoe Mt. News story

By Kathryn Reed

An ambitious plan to rid the Lake Tahoe Basin of hazardous fire fuels was outlined at an Aug. 2 meeting attended by about 50 people – a mix of residents and officials related to the process.
“I don’t think it’s a pipe dream,” El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago told the Tahoe Mountain News after the meeting. “It will depend on two things. No. 1 is how much pressure is put on the congressional delegation of both states to fully fund the project. No. 2 is to work in partnership with different agencies and meet timelines.”
The nearly two-hour PowerPoint presentation by U.S. Forest Service environmental coordinator Chris French outlined the draft of the Lake Tahoe Basin Multi-Jurisdictional Duel Reduction and Wildfire Prevention Strategy 10 Year Plan. A similar meeting was conducted the day before in Kings Beach.
Before hundreds of homes disintegrated here, congressional delegates asked the Forest Service to spearhead a study to see what needs to be done to rid the forest of fire hazards and how much it will cost to do so.
The land in the Lake Tahoe Basin needing to be treated include: 56,000 Forest Service acres, 6,200 California Tahoe Conservancy, 3,300 private-local government, 1,700 California State Parks, and 902 Nevada State Parks.
Some alarming statistics were thrown out that evening at Lake Tahoe Community College – 60 percent of the forest in the basin is subject to a crown fire, 70 percent of the homes butting up to the forest (known as the urban interface) support a crown fire and 70 percent of the basin’s houses lack defensible space.
Maps depict which areas in the next 10 years are to be treated first, though French repeatedly said the document is merely a guideline. Nonetheless, he said the urban-interface must be treated first.
The Angora homes would have fit that description.
Challenges to accomplishing the goal, as outlined by French, are inadequate staffing levels, regulations in the basin and multiple owners of overlying areas.
French admits the design and environmental process could end up coming with a price tag more than the actual implementation.
Afterward, Rick Robinson, CTC program manager, said the total bill could come to $217 million over 10 years for fuel reduction – and that’s in today’s dollars.
The problem is the money has not been secured. Nearly 20 agencies have applied for a handful of grants that will be awarded soon through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act. The local Forest Service office and Nevada Fire Safe Council which represents the whole basin believe they are in contention for the bucks.
Lack of funding could relegate this document to the classification of door stop or dust collector.
But French doubts that will happen because he believes the climate is ripe for Congress to pony up the necessary greenbacks to make this region safe. This is because of the attention the fire received as well as the timeliness of the annual environmental summit on Aug. 17 hosted by Sen. Harry Reid which ex-President Bill Clinton will attend.
City Manager Dave Jinkens stood up at the meeting imploring residents to lobby Congress to allocate money for fuel reduction in Tahoe.
“We believe we don’t have 10 years to make our community safe. We have an emergency and the emergency is fire,” he said. “If we knew today that he next fire would be in early 2008, what would we do?”
On June 27 he said in reference to the then estimated property damage, “It would be nice to spend $140 million on fuel reduction.”
Now that that number is closer to $200 million and suppression costs were $14 million, Jinkens points out the better investment would be prevention instead of rebuilding a community.
French made an even more poignant comment when he said it costs about $2,000 to treat an acre for fuel reduction and for the Angora Fire it cost about $3,800 an acre to fight – and that doesn’t include property damage and personal loss.
The final fuel reduction document is expected this fall.

Angora Fire -- county supe defends actions

Unedited version of 08-07 Tahoe Mt. News story

Santiago defends her presence, or lack thereof

By Kathryn Reed

Criticism has been levied against El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago in regards to her absence at several meetings related to the Angora Fire.
She was a no-show at all three community meetings while the fire raged, as well as the one arranged last month and moderated by Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville.
Santiago did coordinate a press conference in July to outline how the county was handling debris removal. She also led Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on a tour of the devastation.
But the route she chose has been criticized by some officials because it was not the most severe region.
Santiago after the Aug. 2 meeting about the 10-year fuels reduction meeting led by the U.S. Forest Service defended her actions in the weeks after the Angora Fire.
“I was at the fire. I was busy getting things done,” Santiago said of where she’s been.
At the time of the first community meeting she had been up for 36 hours. She believes her time was better spent getting shut-eye while her assistant Judi Harkens attended the forum.
However, neither was present at the other two forums.
Santiago said she consulted with the sheriff’s department to see if her presence was needed. She said they told her no.
Because all of the 200 plus homes that were incinerated were in the county and not the city, she said she had more work to do than the city officials who were seen at the bulk of the meetings.
Santiago said she has been meeting with victims, trying to streamline the recovery process and arrange debris removal.
“That’s where my focus is,” she said.
As for not attending last month’s meeting arranged by Gaines, she was out of town on county business that could not be changed. Harkins was in attendance, but was not asked by Gaines to be on the multifaceted panel as the county representative. Nor did Gaines bother to explain why the county was not represented. Nor did Harkins ask to be at the head table.
Santiago has said doing work for the victims and helping to prevent another disaster as well as attending to other county work has been her priority more than attending every public meeting.

Angora Fire -- debris removal

Unedited version of 08-07 Tahoe Mt. News story

Rebuilding begins, debris on its way out

By Kathryn Reed

It seems as though every number related to the Angora Fire is increasing. The most revealing is El Dorado County has changed the number of sites requiring debris removal to 259 – up from 255.
“I believe there was some discrepancy in the initial counts due to difficulty in identifying actual home sites,” Mike Applegarth, senior administrative analyst with the county, wrote the Tahoe Mountain News on July 31.
Homeowners can have the county remove the debris or find their own contractor. At the beginning of August, 241 had registered for the county to do the cleanup.
On Aug. 9, Stan and Diana Freeman were the first to have their foundation poured.
“I can’t wait to get back in there. My vision is that place is going to be the most desirable area of Tahoe in a couple years,” the real estate agent.
Freeman and his wife had built their 2,700-square-foot dream home 1.5 years ago. They are using the same plans for the house on Pyramid Court. Permits were approved within a week.
At a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors on the last day of July, the board agreed to allocate $1.5million for tree removal in the burn area on private land. According to Supervisor Norma Santiago, 75 percent of that will be reimbursed by the state because of the area being deemed a state disaster area.
The county had prepped 165 of the sites for debris removal, with 84 of them done, 44 in the sampling stage and one certified by the county as ready for a building permit.
The goal is to have all lots cleared by the end of the month.
By the end of July, 19,983 tons of debris had been removed. It took 18 days and 1,154 loads to achieve that amount. The county is using 71 people, eight excavators, nine water trucks, four loaders, three track steers, 61 40-foot long dump trucks and one elevated water drop tank to get the job done.
Some have been critical of the process because local contractors are not being used to remove the debris and open trucks are hauling it to the Class 3 landfill in Carson City.
Applegarth said no sampling of the debris was done to officially determine the toxicity of residential burned acreage. However, previous residential burn areas have shown hazardous materials like asbestos to exist.
He said any potential danger is to people on the ground with intimate contact to the debris, not from what may blow off from the trucks rolling through town.
The state Department of Toxic Substance Control “is allowed to waive normal regulations regarding disposal,” Applegarth said in defense of the open trucks. He said it’s going to the Silver State because Nevada “does not have as stringent of requirements for hazmat disposal.”
Because it is labeled hazardous material, only specialized contractors can do the job. None exist in South Lake. And under disaster scenarios like this, the normal bidding process may be waived and contracts awarded immediately.
“We believe the issue is the direct contact with the debris is what is considered potentially problematic,” Applegarth said. “That’s why you see them in hazmat suits and air monitoring around the sites.”
An industrial hygienist has been onsite to make sure officials are not spreading the waste beyond the burn area.
However, no one is monitoring residents or their friends who are culling through debris for keepsakes.
The county health department recommended people use dust masks while sifting through the muck.
“It’s impossible to know what toxic substance people could have had in the structures that burned,” said Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips of the county health department.

Building Materials in Tahoe

Unedited version of 08-07 Tahoe Mt. News story

By Kathryn Reed

“In general, most structures do not have appropriate roofing and siding material. Between 5 and 97 percent of these structures have decks and overhanging unenclosed features where embers can be trapped and ignite a home. Defensible space is also lacking around most structures (between 21 and 97 percent).”
That information is verbatim from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s chapter on Fuel Reduction and Forest Restoration Plan for the Lake Tahoe Basin as it relates to houses in and around the Angora Fire area.
TRPA employees went through the entire basin in 2004 to gather data for the study. They looked at what houses are made out of, roofing materials and defensible space.
“It was to get a sense of building materials, flammability of structures and how much defensible space had been done,” TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan said.
In the report, North Upper Truckee is divided into three areas – Chiappa, North Upper Truckee-Lake Tahoe Boulevard and Angora Highlands-Tahoe Mountain. The structural rating for all these areas is moderate.
The report says 58 percent of the Chiappa area does not have defensible space, 66 percent for N. Upper Truckee-LT Boulevard and 81 percent for Angora-Tahoe Mt. When it comes to houses with flammable unenclosed structures, it’s 84, 90 and 88 percent, respectively.
TRPA doesn’t have oversight of building materials, it’s up to California and Nevada to makes those rules. From there the city or counties around the Lake have oversight.
Neither Bob Green nor Larry Lohman with El Dorado County’s building department chose to return phone calls as of press time, even though the more than 200 houses that were wiped-out in June are in their jurisdiction.
However, Ron Ticknor, building official with South Lake Tahoe, was forthcoming with information.
“Wood framed construction is the most predominate form of current construction, on occasion we will see a mixed construction of metal and wood, log homes and we have seen Styrofoam Block, plastic block, these types of construction are contained in the building codes,” Ticknor emailed the Tahoe Mountain News. “The example you have given of hay bail or adobe are being built throughout the country, however these types of construction are not contained in the Building Codes and approved for our area ….”
California’s building regulations change as of Jan. 1. Local building and fire officials are reviewing the rules.
Insurance companies have downgraded some California communities because building standards have slipped, according to the state Building Standards Commission. The upgraded standards may mean insurance companies will offer premium credits to homeowners, which is something for Angora victims to consider as they rebuild.
“Fire and panic safety standards are maintained at a high level for California, and include additional wildland-urban interface fire protection standards for vulnerable structures located in areas prone to wildfires such as those recently experienced in Lake Tahoe,” reads a July 24 press release from the Buildings Standards Commission.
Victims of the fire who get permits by the end of the year will not have to meet the new regulations.
“We will see changes for exterior related construction and fire protection such as walls, windows, number of openings, siding, venting, decks and eaves are the major components,” Ticknor said of the new regs.
Shake roofs are still allowed in the city, though it’s been four years since one has been installed, according to Ticknor.
“Most paints are now latex water based instead of the older more flammable mineral based paints, however common paints do not provide fire resistance,” Ticknor said. “There are products on the market that are fire resistance treated or non-combustible materials such as cement based siding. There are products on the market that can be applied to wood products and provide fire ratings to the material available through paint stores.”
The burn area is not unique in its structural composition or terrain.
“The South Lake Tahoe FD has the largest amount of development in the
Tahoe Basin, with approximately 21,750 individual housing and commercial buildings,” according to TPRA. “The steepness of some of the areas contributes to the speed with which an out of control fire can gain momentum and outstrip personnel to control the leading edge of fire front.”
Three years ago the agency found 18 to 56 percent of the structures lacking “appropriate” roofing materials, along with 87-100 percent having flammable siding.

Angora Fire -- information dissemination lacking

Unedited version of what was in 08-07 Tahoe Mountain News

Speed, accuracy of information not at 21st century standards

By Kathryn Reed

As embers swirled in the air during the Angora Fire, so did rumors and misinformation. People punched radio button dials to no avail. No scroll on television stations could be found dispersing Angora updates.
Communication and dissemination of information – those are two areas officials intend to improve upon before the next disaster strikes the South Shore.
“I would like to have a radio frequency that is well known by the public and visitors that everyone can access in the event of an emergency,” South Lake Tahoe Mayor Kathay Lovell said.
Officials are investigating if Caltrans station AM 1610 could be expanded to reach more people and be used for things other than road condition updates.
During previous crisis situations the local radio stations were easily accessed. Now much of the programming is prerecorded and often no one is in the office.
KRLT FM 93.9 is usually live from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week, KOWL AM 1490 is live 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and KTHO AM 590 is automated around the clock with a live satellite feed from ABC.
Local radio stations said they did their best to get information on the air, but because of conflicting press releases from authorities it took time to track down the truth.
On top of that, the emergency alert system was not activated.
“One tool is EAS. The decision was made to get bodies in patrol cars and knock on doors. We needed to get in the area and evacuate people,” explained Lt. Kevin House of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. He is the official spokesperson for the department. “It was the right decision. You will find no one involved in this process saying that wasn’t the right decision.”
How people were told to evacuate the first day is not the issue. What residents throughout the South Shore are second guessing is why that tool provided by the Federal Communications Commission wasn’t used to let everyone else know what was going on that fateful Sunday and subsequent days as the fire flared up.
House said it wasn’t necessary to use the emergency broadcast system. He contends information was easy to access and repeatedly mentioned the throngs of media at the command center at Lake Tahoe Airport.
It’s not up to local radio stations to activate the emergency system, nor can they.
“We had a lot of phone calls asking why the EAS was not initiated. We can’t do it here. It has to come from a central source. They chose not to,” said Ed Crook, KTHO operations manager.
A government official – the city manager, police chief, governor or the like – is the one to activate the system. KKOH AM 780 in Reno would be notified. It sends a signal to stations in Northern California and Nevada alerting them of the disaster.
“When the fire started on the 24th they could have contacted KKOH and said we have this fire in South Lake Tahoe and give information like evacuation routes. Why they did not do it I don’t know,” said Bill Kingman, who came out of retirement for a week to take KTHO live during the fire. He has been in the Tahoe radio business since 1961.
Even an unmanned radio station will transmit an emergency broadcast because of the technology radio stations are required to have.
“Suppose people were in Reno and heard the activation and said that’s my house? What good is it to go door-to-door if nobody is home?” Kingman questioned. “I heard about people in Reno who could have called neighbors to let their pets out.”
Kingman does not want to condemn or criticize the powers that be, but he does question the reasoning for not activating EAS.
“The best information Tuesday (June 26) was a person at the corner of Venice and Tahoe Keys who said you better get the police down here. He was audibly upset. He was trapped in his car,” Kingman said of the Keys gridlock when the fire jumped Highway 89 and evacuations were widespread throughout the Keys and Tahoe Island areas.
Not long after that he said traffic at Sierra Boulevard was stopped – which he saw from KTHO offices in the Swiss Chalet center – to allow traffic on Highway 50 to flow.
Kingman used the various webcams around town for information. Caltrans’ camera in Meyers that usually shows traffic was turned to the fire. The KCRA camera on Harveys that often shows Mount Tallac was turned just to the left so flames were visible.
Over at KRLT, program manager Rob Humphrey broke into the prerecorded programming at about 3 p.m. on the first day of the fire.
“He would have interrupted the programming completely if he had something to tell people and a really reliable source,” said Betsy Miller, general manager of KRLT and KOWL. “The business manger went out and stayed over 24 hours at the command center and he used his personal cell phone to give updates to the radio station.”
Including Miller, there are eight employees between KRLT and KOWL.
She says people called in angry about music being played and Howie Nave cracking jokes that Sunday. Most people didn’t realize the station isn’t live on weekends.
“There is going to be music because there is not a constant stream of information,” Miller explained.
Information was sketchy at the command center hours after the illegal campfire became the worst disaster in memory for the South Shore. Once the fire crews moved to Heavenly Mountain Resort, media had to access information from them as well as law enforcement at the airport. Conflicts were the norm.
South Lake city officials sent regular emails to media and others. The South Shore Chamber let its people and others know what was going on. The media got more right than wrong despite having to delve through reams of paper.
“That first couple, three hours we didn’t have any access to the fire guys. It was all hands on deck,” explained South Lake Police Chief Terry Daniels about the initial lack of communication. “We don’t know what’s going on because they are in the hot zone. That was an issue the first few hours. It took Kevin (House) a few hours to come up from Placerville to be the public information officer.”
Daniels had an officer speak to the press even though this was a county event and technically they should have been doing the talking.
“We know next time we need a better liaison between fire and law enforcement side to get good quality information out sooner,” Daniels said.
“Getting the information out is a massive project. It takes time to filter information to get to the public,” House said. “The solution is having the personnel available and getting it out in as timely a fashion as possible. The information loop has always been the last thing that comes onboard even though to you and I it should be the first.”
Law enforcement and fire acknowledge a joint command center should have been set up.
“One of the things we talked about (in debriefing) is that in the first 48 hours of that event we didn’t have a joint information center well established. A lot of information was going out but it wasn’t unified,” Daniels said. “If those PIOS would have been in one room speaking with one voice, collaborating their information, so many things would be corrected by that.”
Neves essentially said the same timing.
“(A joint information center) would have provided more timely, consistent information to a lot of folks instead of how it went,” Neves said.
Before the next disaster Daniels hopes to have a reverse 911system in place that would tell people to evacuate. Money may come from Homeland Security grants.
Sheriff Jeff Neves also admits communication must be improved before the next catastrophe hits. The sheriff’s department activated its reverse 911 system for mandatory evacuations, however it’s only successful if people hear the message.
Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s phone system was also implemented. It dials people employed with the district or who have children.
Miller hopes the chaos of Angora will be a catalyst for change in how information is disseminated so her radio stations have accurate information to disperse.
“Days into it the sheriff’s office was telling a different story than the Forest Service who told a different story than the CHP,” the radio boss said. “We got so many requests. We had hundreds of pieces of paper. We had to decide what was legitimate and what was for personal profit. A lot of people were trying to benefit from this. ”
Tom Millham and George Alm were live for threes hours on KOWL that stressful Tuesday when Gardner Mountain erupted. Employees for KRLT were working 12 to 14 hour shifts to get info out.
“At that point we were sequestered in our building (at the Tahoe Keys Marina) because they were evacuating the other end of Venice. We were getting updates that were not agreeing from the different agencies,” Miller said.
But some are critical of the stations.
“You can’t tell me they couldn’t get through. We all had PDAs and cell phones. If they felt they were getting too much information and conflicting information, they could have come down to the command center,” Mayor Lovell said of the radio stations.
Police Chief Daniels sent a patrol car to KRLT the first day in order to get information on the airwaves.
“We knocked on the door the first day. We did find somebody eventually. It was probably an hour or so into the thing before we could get access,” Daniels said.
Miller adamantly defends her employees and what they were able to accomplish.