Tahoe Basin ready to burn

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at hotmail.com
Tue Feb 24 23:44:16 EST 2004

mhagen <replyto at group.only> wrote in message news:<102vea1thkc005d at corp.supernews.com>...
> Larry Harrell wrote:
> > February 13, 2004  The Associated Press
> > 
> > Experts: Tahoe Forests Face Fire Threat 
> > 
> > by Scott Sonner
> > 
> > RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Overstocked forests around Lake Tahoe are in danger
> > of catastrophic wildfires like those that burned 750,000 acres in
> > Southern California last year, according to industry experts.
> > 
> > ``Tahoe could burn and if it does, it will be virtually unstoppable.
> > ... I don't think people in the Tahoe basin fully appreciate exactly
> > how dangerous it is,'' said Tom Bonnicksen, a forestry professor at
> > Texas A&M University.
> > 
> > Supporting Bonnicksen's comparison, made Thursday at the 55th annual
> > Sierra-Cascade Logging Conference, were three Californians - Bill
> > Dennison, a Plumas County commissioner and director of the conference,
> > San Bernardino County fire marshal Peter Brierty and Don Sterrenburg,
> > president of a homeowners' association.
> > 
> > The men noted similarities between conditions at Tahoe and the ones
> > that existed before fires destroyed more than 3,600 homes and killed
> > two dozen people in Southern California last year.
> > 
> > They urged more intensive logging and thinning of forests miles away
> > from residential areas.
> > 
> > ``That's where the fires come roaring into communities from,'' said
> > Bonnicksen, an expert on California forests who has testified before
> > Congress for more than a decade in support of increased logging on
> > federal lands.
> > 
> > ``These flames are 200-feet tall, burning at 2,000 degrees, moving at
> > sometimes a mile a minute,'' he said.
> > 
> > Some large trees will have to be cut as well as underbrush, Bonnicksen
> > said. He criticized Forest Service restrictions putting most trees
> > larger than 30 inches in diameter off limits to logging under the
> > agency's latest plan for the Sierra Nevada.
> > 
> > Jay Watson of The Wilderness Society, based in California, described
> > Bonnicksen as ``the timber industry's hired, scientist gun.''
> > 
> > ``The wood products industry can play an important role in reducing
> > fire risks and even in ecological restoration,'' said Watson, the
> > group's wildland fire program director. ``But if they demand that they
> > still be able to fire up the chain saws on America's old-growth
> > forests, then they are in for a buzz-saw of opposition.''
> > 
> > Comment by poster: The article doesn't mention that back in the early
> > 90's, around one third of all trees in the basin died from bark
> > beetles. Only a minimal amount of timber was salvaged and the rest is
> > either still standing in snag patches or laying on the ground, waiting
> > for the next lightning strike to ruin part of America's forested
> > treasures. Even though Tahoe is not "pristene", in the true sense of
> > the word, it certainly still has a framework for a healthy and
> > functioning old growth-like ecosystem. Some parts of Tahoe were
> > clearcut, right down to the lakeshore, during the Comstock Lode days.
> > My first Forest Service job was at Martis Peak, 2400 feet above Lake
> > Tahoe's north shore. In two years there, the biggest fire while I was
> > on duty was 4 acres.
> > 
> > Larry,    been there and seen that
> Hey Dude,
> I worked at the Kyburz and Wm. Kent Guard stations and one on the south 
> east I can't remember the name of, as well as a few of the ski areas. 
> Loved Tahoe. Great scene for a fire dog/ ski bum.

That was me, working as a fire lookout during the summer and being a
ski bum at Squaw during the winter. I was there during the big
avalanches in '83 and a house 5 doors down from me was wiped out by
> In the mid 70's there were few developments up the ridges and building 
> was effectively halted, waiting for the sewage interceptor. I've heard 
> there are now large subdivisions upslope on the west shore.

Incline Village (or, Income Village, as it is sometimes called) is
quite ripe for a massive loss of million dollar homes, higher and
higher above the lake. I do have a few pics of the massive bug kills
of the early 90's, if anyone is interested.

> The holiday and weekend traffic jams were dreaded by the locals.

While working at Squaw, we could easily leave the ski area at 3:45, 15
minutes before the lifts close. If not, we were either waiting in our
vehicles for 2 hours or waiting in the bar for 2 hours. Sometimes,
work kept us up on the upper mountain til 5 and we could see the "red
river" of cars flowing out of the valley.

> Very limited access or evac routes for residents and firefighters plus a 
> certainty of a basin full of smoke. Then comes the runoff.  Bad news.

Yep, I've been predicting a major fire event up there for years.
People worry about the clarity of Lake Tahoe but are not willing to do
what is needed to "fix" the problems in the forests that will lead to
massive erosion. Clinton went there in the late 90's but only a few
bucks and a lot of rhetoric occurred. They even proposed doing
prescribed burns during the summer but, Los Alamos squelched that
idea. Tahoe is a poster child for California's overstocking problems.
True firs have come to dominate over the native Ponderosa, sugar and
Jeffrey pines. The effects of the early 90's drought still persist and
"spike-topped" firs continue to die back, adding fuels to the already
heavy fuel loading. When it does burn (and it will!), it will burn at
very high intensity, basically ensuring a permanent scar at the "Jewel
of the Sierra".

Larry,     one-time 7 year resident at Tahoe-Truckee

More information about the Ag-forst mailing list