Fairfield grad loses everything

It was as if the fire was racing, Tahoe homeowner says

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

Julie Dunham stood near her backyard sliding-glass door in South Lake Tahoe and watched as 20-foot flames began to engulf her yard. It took a friend to yank her away from the surreal sight.

'There were embers falling from the sky, chunks were on fire and it was as if the fire was racing. It was like a bad movie on TV and all I kept thinking was, this isnt real, ' said Dunham, who with her husband, Ross Fleming, lost their house Sunday in Meyers.

Dunham, who graduated from Fairfield High School in 1984, said Monday that she knew they would lose their home as she stared at the flames.

'We were next. There was no saving anything. Our house is completely gone,' said the South Lake Tahoe resident.

Dunham and her husband were picnicking about five miles out of town when they noticed clouds of smoke over the area of their home. The smoke was illuminated and the fire could be seen for miles, she said.

'It was so fast and so intense that the fire went from zero to out of control in no time,' she said from a Lake Tahoe motel where the couple is now staying.

The Angora Fire, which began Sunday afternoon in the southern edge of Lake Tahoe, consumed more than 225 homes and at least 2,500 acres as of Monday.

Its a fire that Lake Tahoes residents have never experienced, said Lt. Martin Hale of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.

'Weve had bigger fires in the past but never where so much structural loss and damage has occurred,' he said Monday.

Hale said he doesnt expect the fire to be contained for at least three days.

'Firefighters are working pretty hard and the winds are down,' he said. 'The way winds are blowing, it seems to be burning back on itself. The fire is more on the forest area and not as great a threat to the residential area as it was earlier.'

But for families like the Dunhams, whose only remaining possessions include the clothes on their backs, the damage is lasting. Photos, personal items and the security of a home are all gone. Only thick ashes and chimneys remain of the homes that were in the Mountain View Estates neighborhood, Dunham said.

'We havent been allowed back into the area and wont be until its 70 percent contained,' Dunham said. 'I dont know what well do next. Were not living one day at a time but rather moment to moment. Were just trying to take care of the basics.'