Tahoe City house fire possibly caused by falling tree from storm winds

Kevin MacMillan
Crews from the North Tahoe Fire Protection District work around the downed tree to coat the home with retardant Thursday morning.
Courtesy NTFPD |

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Emergency crews had their hands full Thursday dealing with power outages, uprooted trees and other inconveniences stemming from the first wave of a winter storm that brought winds gusts of more than 130 mph in some locations.

In Tahoe City, a tree fell into a home at 1770 Washoe Way, likely causing a fire that heavily damaged it, according to the North Tahoe Fire Protection District

Crews responded to the fully involved blaze at about 7:30 a.m. Thursday. The family inside — two adults and two children — escaped unharmed.

“Apparently, a tree had fallen directly onto the house during the high velocity winds, which may have caused the structure to ignite on the south side,” officials said.

The family members were visitors to the area, said NTFPD Public Information Officer Dave Zaski; the home belongs to a friend.

“They lost everything,” Zaski of the family, adding that the tree apparently fell into the house and landed on a bed where one person was sleeping.

An engine from the Squaw Valley Fire Department assisted North Tahoe Fire Engine 51 — which was in the area responding to another call — and others to put out the fire in a few minutes, Zaski said.

In all, 16 firefighters were on scene. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Zaski said North Tahoe Fire and other regional fire district and law enforcement agencies responded to several reports Thursday of uprooted trees and other wind-related events.


Wind gusts from the storm Thursday reached 60 mph at some lower-elevation locations, with some agencies and residents reporting 7-foot-high wave swells off Lake Tahoe’s North Shore.

At Sugar Bowl Resort’s Mt. Lincoln, near Donner Summit, wind gusts reportedly reached speeds of 135 mph Thursday afternoon. Alpine Meadows recorded gusts of up to 112 mph, while the Nevada city of Gardnerville registered wind speeds of 93 mph.

While several areas in Tahoe City experienced power outages off and on Thursday, things reportedly operated fairly smoothly in the Truckee, Kings Beach and Incline Village areas.

On the South Shore, however, widespread outages had all of Meyers and most of South Lake Tahoe and Stateline in the dark for much of Thursday, forcing the Lake Tahoe Unified School District to release all students from class.

Wind gusts were expected to diminish to 10 to 15 mph at lake level by Thursday evening.

On the North Shore, it rained for most of the day Thursday at lake level and down low, although snow began falling near Donner Summit and at higher-elevation areas around 2 p.m.

According to the National Weather Service, a winter storm warning is in effect for the greater Truckee/Tahoe region until 1 p.m. Friday afternoon.

As much as 8 to 14 inches of snow is expected at lake level, along with 1-2 feet above 7,000 feet, with the potential for three or more along the Sierra crest.


Considering the storm’s potential for further outages, officials at Liberty Utilities have the following tips for residents:

Always keep a flashlight and extra batteries handy, and avoid using candles during an outage.

Turn off or disconnect any appliances or electronics you were using when the power went out, and unplug your computer to avoid the possibility of surge damage when power returns.

Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when your power returns.

Stay warm. If you’re cold, put on layers of warm clothing. Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors.

Close doors to unused rooms. Use wood-burning fireplaces if available, but ensure the flume is open.

Leave doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible. Cover a stand-alone freezer with blankets, quilts or sleeping bags to further insulate it and help keep food frozen. Transfer refrigerated food to ice chests filled with ice if outage is prolonged.

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