Tenacious Blaze Near Tahoe Threatens Homes The Angora fire continues to burn out of control in the Lake Tahoe resort area in California. At least 950 homes are now threatened, and it is unknown when the fire will be contained.
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Tenacious Blaze Near Tahoe Threatens Homes

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Tenacious Blaze Near Tahoe Threatens Homes

Tenacious Blaze Near Tahoe Threatens Homes

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

We're going to start this hour on the border of California and Nevada, in the Lake Tahoe resort area. A wild fire is burning out of control there. And wind and weather conditions have firefighters worried that things could get worse.

Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Gibbons held a news conference this afternoon. Schwarzenegger gave an update on the situation.

Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Republican, California): We have 1,900 firefighters that are fighting here and fire personnel. Forty-four percent of the fire has been contained. Among - we have here 3,100 acres that were destroyed. Anywhere between 175 to 200 homes have been destroyed. An additional 75 structures have also been destroyed. More than 3,500 residents have been evacuated, and luckily, very orderly and peacefully evacuated.

SIEGEL: Member station KQED's Tamara Keith is on the scene and was at that news conference. And Tamara, what else did the governors have to say?

TAMARA KEITH: Well, Governor Schwarzenegger and - they're actually both still doing the press conference and I just stepped away. You know, they both thanked the firefighters, that is the critical thing. They say that they're doing an excellent job, working hard hours in hard condition. Governor Schwarzenegger also mentioned something that they're already - the fire hasn't even - isn't even close to being out, but they're already working on an environmental recovery plan. Because Lake Tahoe here is such a beautiful area, it's so prized by so many people. They're already beginning on working on plans to restore the areas that have been burned and prevent the lake from being damaged.

SIEGEL: Now just yesterday, firefighters sounded pretty confident that the fire would soon be under control. What happened?

KEITH: Well, the winds kicked up and they kicked up sooner than they were expecting them to. It caught an amber, the amber jumped into a tree, the tree crowned and caught fire and started spraying ambers all over the place. And it jumped the line and suddenly they were evacuating 2,000 more people.

Again, today, they are very concerned that the winds are going to kick up. In fact, the winds have started blowing here now. And they're very concerned about several neighborhoods that are between the fire and the lake. And they're afraid that the fire could actually jump some lines that they've built, again, that it could jump a freeway. And there are some very high-priced homes just on the other side of that freeway.

SIEGEL: And the homes that you're talking about, are these primarily vacation homes or year-round homes?

KEITH: Well, thus far, the fire has really affected locals, people who live here year-round, who work for the county or worked at the resorts, or people who are real, genuine residents who live here. Vacation homes have also been affected. And this neighborhood that they're now worried about, Tahoe Keys, is definitely heavy with vacation homes. But, you know, just walking around this town and going to the grocery store and at the hotel, there are just so many people who are affected. And everybody's talking to their neighbors and their friends and everybody has a story. Some of them are heartbreaking.

SIEGEL: Well, why are these homes, in particular, so vulnerable?

KEITH: Well, South Lake Tahoe is a desirable place because it's in the middle of a national forest. There are trees everywhere and brush. And because of the national forest, you know, the trees aren't always cleared. And so, basically, the trees that make it so appealing are also what's making it so dangerous. And I think this has been a horrible drought year. We have very little snow packs, something like 29 percent of normal. And the fire is just able to move right on through.

SIEGEL: So what's the outlook for containing this fire?

KEITH: Well, they say that if they can make it through today, and that's a big if, and winds are supposed to get up to 40 miles per hour. If they can make it through today, then they think by tomorrow, maybe by July 4th, it will be fully contained.

SIEGEL: Okay. Thanks, Tamara. That's reporter Tamara Keith of member station KQED.

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