Anniversary of Angora Fire commemorates unity, resolve | SierraSun.com

Anniversary of Angora Fire commemorates unity, resolve

This editorial originally appeared in the Sierra Sun's sister newspaper, the Tahoe Daily Tribune

Today marks a solemn rite of passage for the Lake Tahoe community.

One year ago today, sparking embers from an abandoned, illegal campground fire near Seneca Pond ignited the heavily forested Angora ridge area in South Lake Tahoe.

The flames, exacerbated by high winds, warm weather and tinder-dry conditions, spread rapidly, turning the idyllic area into a fire-breathing hell.

Five days later, 254 homes had been destroyed, and the South Shore suffered the most destructive and costliest natural disaster in Tahoe Basin history.

It became known as the Angora fire.

A year later, families uprooted by the catastrophe still are coping with their changed lives. Some are living in different dwellings, others are rebuilding their homes, and still others have left Tahoe for good.

But despite its devastation, a silver lining clung to the heavy pall of smoke that covered the South Shore for days on end. The fire brought people together in ways that sometimes only catastrophes can.

The show of unity among residents, tourists, firefighters, government agencies and others swelled the heart of the South Shore with pride and resolve. The consolidated response was magnificent to witness.

But as we enter what we expect to be another long, dry summer, residents wearily look toward those brown-scarred hills above the lake. Though crews have busily thinned brush since the fire, and regulatory agencies such as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency have relaxed rules regarding defensible space, one careless act could ignite another calamity.

So here are the rules by which we all should abide: Absolutely no campfires except where specifically allowed, no carelessly dropped matches or cigarette butts, and no unattended barbecues, fireplaces, stoves or heaters.

And we’ll add one: Conserve water.

Nobody wants to see Tahoe explode as it did last year. Enjoy our beautiful area, but please be safe, responsible and mindful of our fragile ecosystem. Together, we can help prevent another tragedy.