Still no cause of Homewood ski resort, Tahoe City Henrikson fires
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — It’s been seven weeks since flames ripped through the Homewood Mountain Resort’s South Lodge, and about one month since a small fire occurred at the Henrikson building in Tahoe City, but fire officials still haven’t released information on the cause of either one.
An early morning fire at Homewood on Tahoe’s West Shore resulted in the loss of the resort’s administration offices, employee locker rooms and some food and beverage outlets on Dec. 28, said Homewood spokesperson Jess VanPernis Weaver.
The Jan. 18 fire at Tahoe City’s Henrikson building, was considerably smaller than the one at Homewood, but still managed to hold up traffic and damage the building.
Both locations are the site of major redevelopment projects. According to previous Sun reports, Homewood Resort is expected to move forward with its $500 million plans later this year, and the 118-room Tahoe City Lodge, planned for the site of the Henrikson building, was approved by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency last month.
At the time of each of these fires, no cause was known.
“We investigated 5 fires over the last 6 weeks and should have all the reports completed by Monday,” North Tahoe Fire Protection District Fire Marshal and Division Chief Todd Conradson wrote in a Feb. 9 letter addressed to Fire Chief Michael Schwartz.
Conradson’s letter, titled “Fire and Life Safety Report,” is scheduled to be read as part of NTFPD’s Feb. 15 board meeting, according to the agenda posted on the district’s website.
It is unclear if the “Monday” referred to by Conradson is the Monday following the date of his letter, which would have been Feb. 13, or the Monday following the meeting, which would be Feb. 20 — the Presidents Day holiday.
As of Tuesday morning, no report had been provided to the Sierra Sun, despite several emails, texts and phone calls to Public Information Officer Beth Kenna regarding the status of the investigations at both the Henrikson building and Homewood sites.
On Feb. 6, Kenna told the Sierra Sun she’d find out the status of the investigations and provide information to us later that day. Kenna followed up that day and said that the reports would be completed Friday, Feb. 10.
Friday came and went, but no reports or information were provided, and the Sun’s follow-up calls were not returned.
In a text message to the Sun on Monday, Feb. 13, Kenna said that day was a holiday, but the reports should have been completed over the weekend. On Tuesday, Feb. 14, the reports still weren’t done, Kenna said in a phone call.
When asked why, Kenna said, “We’ve been busy.”
No other explanation was provided, and despite the Sun’s other attempts to reach both the Fire Chief and Fire Marshal later Tuesday, neither responded by this story’s deadline.
Meanwhile, according to a Feb. 9 report co-authored by Kenna and NTFPD Fire Prevention Officer Ron Carson, the district is touting recent media exposure outside the local market amid the series of storms and weather events to hit the region since the start of the year.
“The District has been actively involved with news agencies from Oakland to Reno, with some national coverage as well,” according to the report, also on tap to be presented at the Feb. 15 NTFPD board meeting. “We were able to get a BC (Battalion Chief) and Firefighter on screen and radio, which is always enjoyable for the public to see! Public Information has started to build relationships with these news outlets, in turn, allowing us an opportunity for more community outreach and safety messaging.”
Also on the Feb. 15 agenda is a Feb. 9 report from Steve Simons, Division Chief-Operations. That report says the district has recently responded to “8 or 9 significant structure fires in North Tahoe and Meeks Bay.
“The biggest of these was in the middle of the night … This is one of the biggest structure fires anywhere in our region in many years,” according to Simons’ report, which doesn’t include the location of the fire in question, but does include a photo of the burning South Lodge.
The Wednesday, Feb. 15, NTFPD Board of Directors meeting is set for 4:30 p.m. at the Station 51 Public Safety Center, located at 222 Fairway Drive, Tahoe City.
UPDATE Tues., 5:20 p.m.
In a phone call Tuesday afternoon, after the Sun’s print deadline, Conradson said, “The district as a whole has been incredibly busy with all those storms.”
He said the number of fires the district has had to investigate in recent months have contributed to the delay in getting reports published, along with the time and resources they’d spent responding to accidents during the recent storms.
Responding to gas leaks and checking in on residents who may have been been stuck in their homes after last month’s record-breaking snowfall are some of the tasks Conradson said have required his immediate attention and thus delayed progress on completing the fire incident reports.
And though he was hesitant to provide an estimated time of completion for those reports, Conradson said he hopes to have them finished soon.
“I can tell you that they’re all a priority and I can’t wait to get them done,” he said.