Breaking records and why to sign CDF |

Breaking records and why to sign CDF

Norm and Alan Nicholls

Brrrrrr … Did you enjoy the cold snap? Now you know how residents of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas feel most of the winter. The morning we were 4 degrees below zero, it was 28 below in Billings, Mont. We can count our blessings that our winter temperatures are “moderate” in the scheme of things, and that these recent subzero temperatures are the exception rather than the rule.

I believe it was in 1989 that we had a recorded temperature of minus 38 degrees out by the airport. I think we set a record that day.

Did you also see the thick “pogonip” on the bushes, trees, and cars last week? According to a 2004 article written by Mike Alger, a KTVN weather forecaster, “Pogonip is a heavy rime frost that forms during a freezing fog. It is generally accepted that ‘pogonip’ comes from a Shoshone Indian word meaning ‘white death.'”

Two years ago in late January we experienced pogonip all the way across the Nevada desert as we were driving to Snowbird, Utah. Some of the “solid objects” we saw draped in frost included bushes, poles, fences, signs, and (believe it or not) even range cattle. You had to feel badly for these poor animals. What was really sad is that they were still covered with frost when we came back home the following week.

An article in the Jan. 8 Sierra Sun, “Truckee considering fire protection contract” prompted this recollection of an instance I witnessed one summer in the mid-’70s when we lived at South Lake Tahoe:

On my way home from work one day, I saw a column of smoke rising from the meadow behind the subdivision where we lived. I quickly drove home, grabbed a couple of shovels and a small tarp (I had previously been a volunteer fireman), and headed toward the meadow. Just as I arrived, the South Lake Tahoe Fire chief arrived in his bright red Chevy Blazer with siren blaring and red lights flashing.

The fire at this point was in the grassy area of the meadow, about 200 feet from any trees, and was probably only 10 to 15 feet in diameter. The chief immediately called me off, as well as several other men that had arrived on the scene. “The fire trucks are on their way” he said.

A couple of minutes later, a CDF fire crew arrived. They had spotted the plume of smoke while on their way back from fighting another fire. The CDF fire captain offered assistance to the chief, and again the chief declined. “The trucks are on their way and will be here any moment,” he said.

To make a very long story short, the city fire trucks did arrive, but on the other side of the meadow where there was no direct access due to the number of homes. Instead of walking into the fire, the city firemen decided to drive around to our side (about a two mile drive). You see what’s coming …

In the meantime the wind had picked up and the flames had begun moving through the grass toward the trees and several homes. The CDF captain asked the chief again whether he wanted assistance or not. The chief said “No. At least not yet.”

At the time I was witnessing this fire and the conversations between the chief and the CDF fire captain, I couldn’t figure out what was going on and why nothing was being done while there were able-bodied fire firefighters (CDF) on the scene within 100 yards of the fire.

I later found out that to use CDF would have cost the City of South Lake Tahoe money. The chief was trying to save money. Instead, he cost the city money due to his indecisiveness.

The fire, which was caused by children playing with fireworks, did spread and a CDF tanker was called in, along with the hand crew that had been there for 20 minutes, to help put the fire out. Although no structures were involved, there was fire damage to a few fences and the fire did spread to several acres before containment.

Signing a contract with CDF is a “no-brainer.” If we can afford to build million-dollar roundabouts, we can certainly sign these agreements annually “regardless of the cost.” To have CDF respond to all our fires during the fire season is a bonus of living here. Most residential subdivisions in wildland areas of California do not have this type of agreement. Our risk of loss due to fire, and our fire insurance rates, are both lower than other California wildland areas.

The answer to last week’s question, “Prior to the building of the present Safeway shopping center, there was a large propane storage tank located on the property. Who owned this tank?”

Pete Kolp was the early bird winner with the answer “Cal Gas.” Former Cal Gas manager, Gene Welch, wrote: “The 19,970 gallon propane tank was originally set by Truckee Tahoe Fuel Company (not affiliated with Truckee Tahoe Propane). Truckee Tahoe Fuel Company was bought out by Cal Gas (now Amerigas) and was owned by Cal Gas before its removal.”

Other winners included Alisha York, Joel Lynch, Gordy Kjer, Bill Mullins, Paul Mezger, and Keith Mickelson.

Norm and Alan Nicholls, of the Nicholls Real Estate Group, are affiliated with Dickson Realty at 11500 Donner Pass Rd. in Truckee.

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