South Lake residents reflect on Angora fire, 592 days later |

South Lake residents reflect on Angora fire, 592 days later

Jonah M. Kessel/Sun News ServiceAngora fire victim and Lake Valley Fire Protection District Defensible Space Inspector Leona Allen stands 1,383 Mount Olympia Circle Thursday afternoon.

LAKE TAHOE ” With a ridge still layered in blackened trees behind her and surrounded by more than a dozen homes rebuilt since the Angora fire, Leona Allen talked about her father, Owen Evans, on Thursday.

Allen ” a defensible space inspector for Lake Valley Fire Protection District ” talked about her father’s incredible collection of 78 rpm albums and the trained naturalist’s glass wildflower slides.

She talked about Evans’ 30 years working for the U.S. Forest Service and his former post spotting forest fires from Angora Lookout.

But most of all, Allen talked about her father’s appreciation of the outdoors and deep affection for the Mount Olympia Circle neighborhood where he lived starting in 1978.

“He loved this neighborhood and the people here,” Allen said.

Although Evan’s home was among the 254 destroyed by the June 2007 fire, it isn’t among the 145 houses in some stage of the rebuilding process.

Before he died of congestive heart failure in December, Evans decided the lot where his home once stood should be turned into a community garden.

He made the decision as a way to give back to the neighborhood he felt so dearly about, said Allen, who also lost her home in the fire.

“His passion was the environment,” Allen said. “I just think this is a really positive legacy for him, something positive the community can embrace.”

Landscaping of the garden will focus on native plants, and will include demonstrations of defensible space, and proper erosion-control measures known as Best Management Practices , Allen said.

Showing people that defensible space can be attractive will help fill the Lake Tahoe Basin’s “incredible” need for it, Allen said.

The possibility of including a gazebo and a community vegetable garden on the lot have also been discussed, Allen said.

The Nevada Fire Safe Council, Tahoe Resource Conservation District and South Tahoe Public Utility District are three agencies helping with the project, but the garden is expected to take shape largely with the help of volunteers, Allen said.

Allen expects construction of the garden to begin this spring, with a dedication ceremony planned for June 6.

The community garden is one of several projects under way that will determine the future of Angora fire burn area.

The U.S. Forest Service expects to release a long-term restoration plan for the area as soon as next week, said Forest Service spokeswoman Cheva Heck.

Release of the plan begins a public comment period and is an initial phase in the National Environmental Policy Act process, Heck said.

An “open house” regarding the plan is scheduled for March, but implementation is unlikely to begin until the fall, at the earliest, Heck said.

While the fire was terrible and catastrophic for the community, it will also give the forest service a “fresh start” in the area, Heck said.

Restoration will allow the agency to create a functioning ecosystem in the area, something which did not exist before the Angora fire, Heck said.

The agency also expects to begin planting on urban lots burned by the Angora fire this spring.

At the same time, the University of California Cooperative Extension is developing a set of voluntary landscaping guidelines for residents of the area burned by the fire.

“The goal of this project is to develop a vision for a future landscape that integrates defensible space, water quality, wildlife, and aesthetic values,” according to an Angora Community Newsletter.

The next meeting regarding the guidelines is scheduled for Feb. 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. at South Tahoe High School.

All of the efforts are included in the last of what El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago refers to as the three “R’s” for the Angora area ” recovery, reconstruction, and restoration.

And while it may be years before the blackened forest regains its grandeur, Heck, Santiago and Allen are all confident about the future of the area.

“We’ll get there,” Allen said.

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