unedited September Mt. News story:
Editor's note: This is a monthly article following one of the hundreds of people who lost their homes in the Angora Fire in summer 2007.
By Kathryn Reed
As dusk fades to evening, it is hard to tell a forest full of charred trees is in the not so far distance. A crescent moon dances in the darkening sky. Lights at neighbors come on one by one. Laughter filters from the living room to the deck. Conversations run the gamut.
Life goes on.
A year ago the atmosphere was much less jovial at the Angora Fire survivors’ gathering.
This night, casual conversations center on refurnishing. Money has run out for some – the hazards of being underinsured. Blow up beds will have to suffice. Some will furnish with the bare necessities. Others talk about appliances on order. Some make the contractor repaint after the first color is all wrong.
It’s Sept. 4 and this week two more homes are occupied by those who have rebuilt.
El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago says 73 of the homeowners have yet to decide what to do. About 15 have transferred or banked their allocation – meaning building won’t be happening anytime soon if at all. She reminded those who are listening that Dec. 23 is the expiration date for the building fee waiver as well as to bank the allocation.
John Mauriello, one of the 254 households to lose their house on June 24, 2007, is hosting this gathering at his rental in the burn area.
He still doesn’t know what he is going to do. Build? Sell? Buy elsewhere?
“Whether he likes it or not, he is a part of the neighborhood,” neighbor Janet Ingles says in front of Mauriello.
Despite the respiratory issues he has had since the fire, it’s evident a part of him isn’t convinced moving is the right answer – this, despite, that he has his lot on Mount Olympia Circle for sale.
This evening plenty of business needs to be talked about even though many in the room are talking about being back or how they soon will be.
Jay Newburgh talks about the lot she bought on Lake Tahoe Boulevard between Mule Deer Circle and Angora Creek Road. She didn’t lose a house. She just cares and wants to give back.
“This is for you,” she tells the 20 or people. She shows blueprints of the memorial garden and rock labyrinth she intends to have finished by the end of the year. A chorus of “wows”, “oh, wow,” “beautiful” and “thank you” fill the room right before everyone breaks out in applause.
Granite benches will be erected. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has deemed it a restoration site. As such, the county says no to removing stumps. Santiago said she would try to intervene. Harold Singer and other residents volunteer to help.
Paula Lambdin, who started these gatherings, moved back this summer with her husband into their rebuilt house. She talks about how her children have dealt with losing everything. She wonders what is shared with new college friends.
Then she tells the group to be on the look out for strangers. Sheriff’s Lt. Les Lovell has promised a quick response and follow-up to any suspicious activity. People are taking building materials, flowers, sod and sleeping in unoccupied houses.
Survivors are encouraged to contact the Tahoe Resource Conservation District. A grant allows them to give out a couple dozen plants for free and a $100 certificate for compost from Tahoe Sand and Gravel.
Lambdin tells her cohorts “you are all champions of disaster”. She says this because people from other areas are contacting her asking how Tahoe has rebuilt so fast, moved on and essentially, not just survived, but thrived.
Mauriello questions Santiago about how he and others who paid for tree removal are going to get reimbursed. She said she delegated the issue to someone else. Mauriello says he hasn’t heard from anyone and wonders why she doesn’t return calls.
Tony Colombo asks her about a form from the county he was sent to fill out. He’s worried his property taxes will go up by telling the truth. Santiago says to come see her the following week.
Colombo and his wife, Tara Brennan, are dubbed the decorating king and queen for Christmas. The lot behind their place is open. That area is going to be one spectacular display of neighborhood festiveness.
It’s beginning to feel a lot like a neighborhood.