Federal report to aid bi-state commission on Angora fire
Nevada Appeal News Service
SSOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CALIF. – The co-chairs of Lake Tahoe’s regulatory agency say the release of last week’s federal fire report and the July 25 creation of a bi-state Blue Ribbon commission set to review forest practices in the basin are positive measures intended to impartially address the Angora fire.
“(The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) believes as the facts continue to come out about the Angora fire we’ll be able to move into more holistic solutions to reducing the risks of wildfire,” said Julie Motamedi, TRPA Governing Board chair. “It’s important to look at the big picture which goes beyond tree removal to forest management, vegetation policies, home building materials, defensible space and public education.”
Meanwhile, critics of the federal report released Friday contend it too soon after the fire to reach any definitive conclusions.
The Angora fire started on June 24 and was contained on July 2. It burned 3,072 acres and cost about $160 million in damages.
On July 25, California and Nevada governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Gibbons signed a bi-state Blue Ribbon Fire Commission agreement, which includes a fact-finding panel of 17 members that will give a report on the Angora fire, forest management policies and emergency preparedness.
The Fire Commission is charged with examining ways to reduce the threat of wildfire while protecting the fragile environment at Lake Tahoe. A report of the commission’s findings is due out in March 2008.
TRPA Governing Board Chairman Allen Biaggi is hopeful the federal report and the Blue Ribbon panel will come up with definitive conclusions and recommendations.
Motamedi is an appointee of Schwarzenegger. Biaggi serves on the board as the director of Nevada’s Department of Conservation Natural Resources.
“Much of the feedback the TRPA heard initially about the fire from firefighters was confirmed in the Forest Service report,” said Julie Regan, communications and legislative affairs chief for the agency. “It’s clear that firestorm conditions driven by high winds played a large role in the fire but the Agency remains committed to a review of policies to ensure our environmental regulations are consistent with the recommendations of fire professionals,” Regan said.
“What didn’t surprise us about the report was the fact that most homes in Tahoe have flammable rooftops and siding and don’t have defensible space,” Regan said. “Our Tahoe Basin fire plan highlighted these risks and it’s crucial that we all work together to make wildfire prevention a higher community priority.”
Fire victims can rebuild what previously existed through a fast-track application process through which filing and mitigation fees are also being waived by TRPA and El Dorado County. The county has taken the lead on processing rebuild permits and TRPA is supporting the process, Regan said.
Critics of the Forest Service and the TRPA said the report doesn’t go far enough.
Carl Ribaudo, president of Strategic Marketing Group, a South Shore-based tourism marketing company contends the report – which came out 40 days after the fire – has limited frame of reference and doesn’t take into account periphery issues such as sensitive stream zones, which were dense with heavy underbrush at the time of the fire. Many argue the stream zones, which are protected areas to help preserve lake clarity, are ripe with forest fire fuel.
“You need to have a greater time and distance to review all the facts and all the related issues that have dictated policy for the last 20 years before we can come to conclusions and sound strategies to significantly prove our risk situation,” Ribaudo said.