I was sitting there, staring blankly at the tv, taking a Sunday afternoon off from thinking about our current real estate market, which is pretty much what I think about, well... when I’m awake. Mostly these days it’s about, being a marketer at heart, finding that one perfect thought, that one perfect sentence that will bridge the current disconnect between what Sellers want and what Buyers are willing to pay. Every now and then, but not often, I need to get away from it, even if it means washing my brain with anything else, and in this case it was a mindless PlayStation 2 game. Oddly, and peacefully, it was refreshing.Then Maxene, my better 7/8ths (much more than a better half) came back in the house from our front yard. It was a little after two-oclock in the afternoon. She wanted me to look at the eerie lighting in the sky. She sensed, she said, something was wrong on this otherwise perfectly weathered Lake Tahoe blue day.
It’s a fire, I said to her a minute later, and by then ashes and soot, propelled by unusual blustery winds coming out of an odd two-front weather trough, were falling around us in the cul de sac of our Mid-Kingsbury home on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe. “Can’t you smell it”, I asked her. “I can now”, she said. It had come over us that quick.
Moments later, looking from our deck through the trees, we could see smoke plumes towering over Heavenly Mountain. We followed the trail back toward it’s beginning on the distant side of the lake. It looked like the fire was up in the mountains, and from what I could then see I thought on the other side of Mount Tallac. There are no homes there, only high-mountain forest up to the tree line, and beyond that nothing much but rock. The land over there is inaccessible, uninhabited and a lot of it. We have seen smoke from fires in that vast distance before, mostly from lightning strikes, and never threatening. I thought little about it, other than Maxene was right, the color of the sky was amazing; it was peach, and the sun shined through the smoke plume blood-orange red.
The ashes and soot, I rationalized, were still carried even over great distance by the rare wind conditions. I had no idea the fire was in the middle of one of our most desirable neighborhoods.
Then my brother called. He was doing an open house at one of our listings in Al Tahoe, one of South Lake Tahoe’s in-town neighborhoods next to the lake. The fire, he said, looks like it’s coming from the direction of Angora Highlands. We had just closed a sale for a house there last week, and as such this is the term he used for that area, which also includes the neighborhoods of Meyers, North Upper Truckee, Gardner Mountain, Tahoe Paradise and Country Club Estates.
Needless to say, the fire was a monster. My casual first-hopes went up in flames with it. The wild child is being tamed now, but it could return to its uncontrollable blaze of fury by the strong winds that forecasted for tomorrow. We want not, hope remains and prayer is focused on the noble firefighters doing their magnificent battle.
It was a “crown-fire”, one that springs from tree top to tree top, and this one was pushed by 40 mile per hour winds. A homeowner saw it fly a hundred yards in two seconds. Impossible to outrun, damn difficult to outdrive. No lives lost, no injuries. We were lucky in that regard, but 220 of our homeowners have had better days. We feel dreadfully sorry for each and every one of them. If we could only restart Sunday anew.
Our first thought, make that prayer, was that no homes would be lost. I wished to be abe to conjure up an effective rain dance. If only the Washoe Indians were still here; maybe they could. We didn’t hear anything for what seemed like the longest time. As the news started pouring in, and it came with a difficult to swallow gulp, we heard that 52 homes were lost in North Upper Truckee. My heart sank as prayers rose. A pause then, the news remained the same for what seemed like the longest time, but by nightfall the number of lost homes grew to 165, and then after that it was 220.
It’s only today that I’ve stopped to think about how we felt at the time. That’s retrospective with effort. Shock, stunned, is what I can describe, but what I was most aware of, and overcome by was a sickened feeling of neighbors being displaced, uprooted, having lost where they belong. I know those streets, can see those homes in my mind. These are people that we all know. They are us and it hit very close to home.
In the last two days, we’ve heard from friends and clients from all across the world. A client emailed from Africa who was worried about his home. We heard from Australia... and Great Britian, and all across this country. “Are you all right?”, is what they asked. “We are, thank God”, is what we said.
In separate posts, we will review the extraordinary community meeting about the fire that we attended last night, and take a close look at the behind the scene staging area for fighting the fire.
About the Photos here:
We have not been allowed to enter the fire zone. We could have produced a PRESS pass for this blog, but chose not to get in the way of the difficult work being done. The credits for the photographs here are from top to bottom:
- 2,700 plus acres.
- Point of origin: The blaze began in the neighborhood of North Upper Truckee, about 300 yards to 400 yards south of Seneca Pond, an area popular with runners and teenagers.
- 2,000 firefighters at present.
- 1,000 residents evacuated.
- 2 fire trucks lost.
- 1,400 residents w/out power.
- No deaths, no injuries reported at present.
Tahoe Daily Tribune
List of homes