Lake Tahoe Fire Estimated to Incur More than $25 Million in Losses

June 26, 2007

A wildfire in Lake Tahoe, Calif., that has destroyed at least 220 homes and forced about 1,000 people to flee their neighborhoods along the Lake’s southern edge as of Monday is anticipated to incur more than $25 million in insured losses, according to estimates by risk modeling company Air Worldwide Corp.

The fire, which is believed to be caused by human activity, was approaching 2,500 acres and was 10 to 15 percent contained as of press time, Lt. Kevin House of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department told the Associated Press. No injuries have been reported.

According to Air, the “Angora Fire” appears to have started south of Fallen Leaf Lake in a region of mixed fuels that includes brush, light conifers and possibly some hardwood trees. Firefighters were initially aided by decreasing wind speeds and cooling temperatures on Sunday. However, by Monday, the fire overran the mixed medium and heavy conifer tree stand along the east coast of Fallen Leaf Lake. In doing so, Air said the fire was transformed from a conventional “brushfire” to a full-fledged “forest fire,” complete with crowning. Crowning signifies that flames have made their way up to the tops of the tree stands, at which time they tend to ignite neighboring treetops in a fast chain reaction, Air said.

“Given the current perimeter of the Angora Fire and nature of the land cover in the area, it is likely to become the first PCS-declared wildfire catastrophe since the Cedar and Old fires that hit California in October-November of 2003,” Air said. “Based on initial reports of structure and home loss, it is anticipated that insured losses could exceed $25 million.”

The Farmers Insurance Group of Companies did not have estimates of insured losses as of press time, but said Farmers and its subsidiary company Foremost Insurance Co. insure 2,2283 automobiles, 3,378 properties, 137 mobile homes, 34 recreational vehicles, and 84 special dwelling policies in the area. Nine claims were reported to the company as of 9:30 a.m. Monday, the company indicated.

Earlier this year, state and federal fire officials had warned of a potentially active wildfire season in the Sierra Nevada following an unusually dry winter. The annual May 1 snow survey found the Tahoe-area snowpack at 29 percent of normal levels, the lowest since 1988. Fire restrictions have been in effect in Tahoe National Forest since June 11, the AP reported, based on a statement from the U.S. Forest Service.

Among the communities evacuated were the Angora Lakes Resort, hundreds of homes in Meyers and the campground at Fallen Leaf Lake.

Associated Press writers Aaron C. Davis, Amanda Fehd and Brendan Riley contributed to this story.

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