Thanks to Lisa Herron, USFS-Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit on behalf of the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team for this article:
On June 24, 2007, embers from an illegal and abandoned campfire ignited the most destructive fire in the history of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Years of fire suppression, hazardous fuels accumulation, and drought impacted basin forests, leaving them vulnerable to severe wildfire. Fire managers and regulatory agencies across the basin learned valuable lessons from this devastating fire. It raised critical awareness about the need to increase the pace and scale of thinning and treating forested areas in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) and to educate the public about building Fire Adapted Communities. Unfortunately, 10 years later, there is still much work to do as illegal and abandoned campfires remain the leading cause of wildfires in the basin.
“Although the Angora Fire was emotionally and economically devastating to the Lake Tahoe community, 10 years later we have learned some valuable lessons that will help move us toward a more resilient and healthy ecosystem less vulnerable to destructive wildfires,” said U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Acting Forest Supervisor, Teresa McClung. “Local, state, and federal agencies and partners will continue to work together to reduce wildfire risks and provide education that will support Fire Adapted Communities around the lake.”
After the Angora Fire, a bi-state commission was formed to develop recommendations aimed at reducing the risk of wildfire in the basin. Many of the recommendations have been completed including the removal of hazardous fuels on more than 48,000 acres of forest in the basin and updates to the Lake Tahoe Basin Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Within the fire area, approximately 1,100 acres of reforestation has taken place and approximately 2,000 feet of stream channel has been restored. In addition, The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT) was formed in 2008 and was tasked with implementing the Lake Tahoe Basin Multi-jurisdictional Fuels Reduction and Wildfire Prevention Strategy. The TFFT consists of 20 partner agencies, whose mission is to protect lives, property and the environment within the Lake Tahoe Basin from wildfire by implementing prioritized fuels reduction projects and engaging the public in becoming a Fire Adapted Community. As a result, Lake Tahoe leads the nation as a model community in taking an all hands, all lands proactive approach to addressing our greatest ecological challenges. To learn more about the TFFT, visit www.tahoefft.org.
The lessons learned from the Angora Fire are many, but one of the most valuable lessons is that Lake Tahoe full-time and part-time residents, visitors, private and non-profit companies and organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies must remain vigilant and work together as one community to prevent and prepare for future wildfires. The devastating impacts of the Angora Fire on families, friends, communities, and the forest will be forever remembered, but we can strive to remain resilient and reduce the impacts of future wildfires through actions and education. Take the pledge to “Think First” about when and where campfires and/or portable charcoal barbecues are allowed, complete defensible space improvements around homes and property, develop advance evacuation plans, and support the pace and scale of fuels reduction treatments including prescribed fire across all jurisdictions. We can all work together to “Think First and Keep Tahoe Fire Safe”. Learn more about “Think First” at ThinkFirstTahoe.org.