South Lake Tahoe neighbors support each other during rebuilding
Appeal Staff Writer
Each Tuesday, residents of the Mountain View Estates in South Lake Tahoe who lost their homes in the Angora fire meet to share information, questions and hope.
“We were a very close neighborhood,” said Larry Lambdin, who hosts the weekly meetings along with his wife, Paula. “We just did a lot of things together. We’ve found that this is a good way to support each other.”
The meetings usually begin at 6 p.m. with food and conversation. Around 7 p.m. El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago shows up for an informal town hall-like session where she updates residents on the latest information and answers questions.
This Tuesday, she updated residents on the county’s program to remove for free the hazardous trees burned in the June 24-July 3 fire that destroyed 254 homes.
She tells them 262 property owners have signed up for the program- some trees burned where homes survived.
She asks how it’s been going.
They’re disappearing. They’re gone. It’s sad, people respond. They say it’s hard to see their property cleared.
Santiago sympathizes. Then the questions get tougher.
Is anyone overseeing the company who’s cutting the trees? Residents who’ve already had their trees removed say the company turned their lots into “skid row,” dragging trees indiscriminately over property and “ripping everything apart.”
Some worried the process had changed the landscape of their lots and they would have to survey again, a cost of $600-$1,500.
Others said trees that may not have been dead were removed anyway.
It was the first Santiago had heard of the concerns. She promised to get answers.
“I’m so grateful (Santiago) is our supervisor,” Paula Lambdin said. “She never takes ‘no’ for an answer.”
Residents understand the process is going to be slow sometimes.
“You wouldn’t believe the rumors we hear,” Robert Kaufman said. “(Rebuilding) is not as smooth as they made it sound like it was going to be.”
But through the difficulty, they said, they have seen the best of people.
For instance, the food at Tuesday’s gathering was purchased through a donation from a family in Stockton, Calif., who sent a note telling the Lambdins to use the $100 on something insurance wouldn’t cover.
Paula had a thank-you note sitting on the counter for everyone to sign.
The home the Lambdins are living in is owned by a man in the Bay area who offered it as a long-term rental. He agreed to allowing the meetings, which often draw 30 or more people, to be held there.
Churches and other community organizations have donated goods and services.
And neighbors have supported one another – even those whose homes survived.
“We’ve had survivors comes to meetings and apologize. ‘I’m sorry my house didn’t burn.’ We didn’t want them to feel that way at all,” Larry Lambdin said.
He said they used to have an informal decorating contest every year during Christmas. But 24 of the 30 homes on his Mount Olympia Circle were burned to the ground.
“We’ll go out there and decorate our mailboxes to keep the spirit of our neighborhood alive.”
• Contact reporter Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1272.