Angora: A fire that brought out the best and worst in humanity
June 29, 2007
It happened. And how it happened.
With an indiscriminate rage against all who are innocent of its cause, the Angora fire of South Lake Tahoe was raised from hell to selfishly wrap its mighty arms around structures both manmade and nature-spawned.
In a column I wrote a few weeks ago, I warned of what seems so academic and obvious – that the moisture-ravished forests of our mountains are as highly flammable in dryness as they would be if drenched in kerosene, and that it wouldn’t take much at all to raise its hell and then raze all that stands in the way of its effrontery.
The Angora fire has exhibited its relentless power with frightening economic efficiency. It caught quickly, and it roared a hostile battle cry of retaliation as its scornful army of flames advanced on the surrender of our overpowered landscape.
The cause? Let me put it this way: We all stood a better chance of seeing the Holy Spirit water-skiing than catching any glimpse of lightning aiming its fire arrows at the mountainside. Lightning is innocent of all charges.
What does that leave us with? It leaves us with our own worst enemy – ourselves. Whether it was an unattended campfire or some Jell-O head playing with matches or flicking a cigarette, the result was the same – unforgiving devastation.
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Two of our company’s employees lost their homes and everything in them. They have nothing. Another five employees were forced to evacuate their homes.
Disasters, whether they are borne of nature’s temperament or the mindlessness or malevolence of people, leave more than just the damages of their forces out in the open. They expose the cold, black, lifelessness of the human heart, and reveal character with more true colors than any inner flame. For every heart filled with kindness and appreciation, there is one that pumps with the blackness of contempt.
As with the loss of a loved one, the deterioration of a marriage, financial despair, the loss of a job or sudden handicaps of body and mind capacity, natural disasters differ little from disasters of the human condition-they both leave victims.
Volunteers who were sent to the Tahoe Daily Tribune in South Lake Tahoe – one of our sister newspapers – said that many people were tearfully grateful just to get a pillow as a donation. But there were some “victims” of the fire who actually had the despicable and shameless audacity to look only for brand-name clothing! Brand-name clothing?! If you are that picky about vanity and the popularity of the clothes you wear in the wake of a disaster then you don’t deserve to be considered a victim of that disaster. You are instead a victim of a wrecked and wretched soul that is evidently irreparable.
Some of classified sales representatives here at the Appeal actually took phone calls from people wanting to place ads for rentals with rates that were raised higher than Angora’s loftiest flames. Talk about helping people in need. Some rental rates were increased by home and apartment owners by $500 to $2,000 per month! And I thought the gougers who would stalk the hurricane-ravaged streets of Florida with their chain saws holstered like machine guns, ready to rob the first unassuming homeowners who needed fallen trees removed from their driveways, were heartless!
I even heard of one family that packed the van and drove a few hours just to see the fire. Not to vacation, just to see the fire. I tell you, the brain cell population of some people is like a ghost town.
To all those who lost their homes, reading this column would and should be the last thing on their list of priorities as they gather their lives together.
But I wish you all the very best of spiritual repair.
To those who are passing over the tragedy as mere spectacle, or unjustly using its disarmament of independence on victims to drain them of their last pennies as they seek shelter and provisions, maybe the fiery vengeance of comeuppance will turn its attention toward you someday. The sooner, the better.
• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.