After the flames
August 20, 2007
Rising to nowhere, a soot-stained brick chimney towered above piles of ash and debris all that remained of a Washoe Way home destroyed by a fire Saturday that consumed six structures and 15 acres of forest outside of Tahoe City.With the smell of ash hanging in the air Monday, John and Christina Griffith sifted through the remains of their home, salvaging what was left while their St. Bernard sat in a clearing between heaps of rubble. Yellow caution tape surrounded the parcel.My first 70s shower head, said John Griffith, holding up a blackened, circular object. Griffiths home was one of the five destroyed. I feel like my piggy bank is going to be right around here.Utility trucks, U.S. Forest Service crews and insurance agents crowded the burn area Monday initiating the first phase of rebuilding and finishing the last stage of fire control.Well be maintaining crews out there until we achieve full control that is when the entire area is mopped up and there is no danger of embers igniting, said Rex Norman, spokesman for Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the U.S. Forest Service. Hot shot crews cleaned up the backbone of the fire Monday, patrolling the burned area and looking for smoldering debris or anything that would hamper our control efforts, said Kurt Kissinger, incident command officer for the U.S. Forest Service. Crews started to grid the area on the fringes of the burned site, making their way toward the interior, Kissinger said.Utility crews restored power on Sunday, Kissinger said. Crews from AT&T and various cable companies worked to restore phone and television access Monday. Kissinger said crews were making progress and he was looking to send home some workers later Monday evening, suspending night operations but continuing with day operations. If things continue the way they are, thats what were looking for, Kissinger said.Once fire personnel complete the mop-up, Kissinger said officials will likely send out a Burned Area Emergency Response team to survey the land and look into erosion control and vegetation growth. [Reforestation] depends on the needs of that particular area, Norman said. Itll depend on the local conditions.But responsibility for rebuilding individual homes lies with the property owner, several of whom were discussing the matter with insurance agents Monday.Im in my first class of insurance 101, said Peter Morris, staring at a pile of deformed cans among other unrecognizable objects on his Tahoe Woods lot. Morris was assessing his destroyed property with his insurance agent to determine what was formerly on his property and what needs to be rebuilt.Thats a lifetime worth of stuff right here reduced to ashes, Morris said. Morris said he would like to rebuild his home just as its been for the past 20 years hes lived there. But with regulations, bureaucracy and unavailable materials, its just not possible, he said.I just cant wait to get involved with the bureaucracy and find out all that Im not going to be able to do anymore, Morris said. I certainly wouldnt wish this on anybody, but well get through it.The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency may discuss waiving fees to Washoe Fire victims who will rebuild their homes at the agencys next board meeting, said Community Liaison Jeff Cowen.However we can help the homeowners, we will do that, Cowen said.In the Angora Fire, the bistate agency waived both the application and mitigation fees to make it easier for fire victims to rebuild their homes, Cowen said. The Sierra Suns David Bunker contributed to this report.