Bee History: 254 homes destroyed in Angora fire

Firefighters at the Angora Fire battle a blaze in South Lake Tahoe on Sunday, June 24, 2007.
Firefighters at the Angora Fire battle a blaze in South Lake Tahoe on Sunday, June 24, 2007. apayne@sacbee.com

The Sacramento Bee is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. This story is part of our ongoing coverage.

July 2, 2007: The Angora fire’s point of origin, the exact spot where it first started, is a devastated moonscape filled with charred stumps and thick gray ash.

Amid a cluster of boulders, below a snow-dotted ridgeline, someone lit an illegal campfire, investigators believe.

The flames were fanned by swirling winds and fueled by bone-dry vegetation. They roared through the forest and destroyed 254 homes near South Lake Tahoe.

The location of that disastrous campfire is a short walk from Seneca Pond, which today stands as an oasis of green amid the devastation. Before the fire, it was a favorite spot for residents of the devastated neighborhood to walk their dogs and take bike rides with their children.

A lone female duck paddled its waters Sunday, one week after the fire began on June 24. Wood roses and alders surrounded its shore. Standing on the pond’s sandy beach, it is almost possible to forget the hellish scene that surrounds it.

The Angora fire swept through 3,100 acres with approximately 2,000 people evacuated and an estimated final cost of $13.5 million, according to the U.S. Forest Service. As of Sunday, the fire was 85 percent under control, with crews using infrared technology to locate hot spots and mopping up 400 feet in from the fire line.

Many firefighters had been demobilized, but about 698 personnel remained in the region. From the area around Seneca Pond, a few smoking hot spots could still be seen in the woods and on the hillside.

Hudson Sangree

Sacramento pilot takes part in D-Day raid

June 6, 1944: The United States and its allies stormed the Normandy beaches, overcoming entrenched Germany opposition and ultimately establishing a position from which to launch a final conquest of the European continent and end World War II. In that day’s Sacramento Bee, United Press’ Collie Small wrote a first-person account from an Allied aircraft, piloted by First Lt. Carl Oliver of Sacramento. Here’s excerpts from Small’s report:

“No Man’s Land is 5,000 feet below.

Bee file Sacramento

It’s somewhere between the gray channel washed beaches on which Allied troops are swarming from their landing barges and the brown fields beyond. The win of gun flashes in the half light of dawn in those fields come from Germans fighting the invasion.

My aerial grandstand set in a Marauder piloted by First Lieutenant Carl Oliver of Sacramento, a part of an unending stream of Allied aircraft ranging from fighters to heavies, which is streaming across the channel to support the infantry assault.

Five thousand feed is one of the lowest altitudes the medium bombers ever have bombed from in this theater, but we chance the German flak to pinpoint our targets.

As we wheel off the targets and streak back toward the channel, dawn streaks the eastern sky. Peering down I can see out troops scrambling ashore under a canopy of shells hurled over their heads by warships in a harbor that dents the shoreline.

In the half light we can see flashes from German shore batteries all along the coastline and inside the harbor.

By now, as we fly across the the white capped channel, we have a bridge of ships from England to France. They range from mighty battle wagons down to tiny, gnat like PT boats and include all manner of transports and landing craft.

As we follow the shoreline the acrid odor of cordite drifts up to the cockpit. Spread below is a panorama of smashed buildings. Then we sight hundreds of white dots – our parachutes – interspersed with our sliders. Allied paratroops have moved in – and on to their jobs.

Cartoon Corner

Let me tell
The much-publicized evidence of President Lyndon Johnson’s surgery was forgotten in his party’s losses in the 1966 elections. 1966 Sacramento Bee cartoon by Newton Pratt