Charles Barkley planned to take 100 Lake Tahoe-area firefighters out to dinner Saturday night after touring the devastation of a nearby wildfire that destroyed 254 homes last month.
Barkley, the former 11-time NBA star, is playing in the American
Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course
through Sunday in neighboring Stateline, Nev.
He toured the fire with officials for NBC Sports, which is televising the tournament that runs through Sunday and is running public service announcements with a Web site for contributions to a fire relief fund.
"This is unbelievable," Barkley said while viewing the charred remains of homes after his first round on Friday. He has pledged $25,000 to the relief fund.
"I really want to let people know that this is really unfortunate. Its going to take years for everybody to rebuild their houses here," he told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
The fire displaced 3,500 residents and caused more than $160 million in damages.
"If we stay over there at the golf and casino, were not going to think anything is going on here," Barkley said. "Thats why I wanted to come here with a camera. When you live in different parts of the country and they show you two houses burned down, you dont get the full effect."
Barkley did a similar act, visiting New Orleans last February, well after the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.
"That hurricane could have hit last week, thats how bad it was. Houses were all watered out and streets were nothing but mud everywhere, and that was two years later," said Barkley, who donated $1 million to help New Orleans residents recover.
"We need to do something like this every year we come here to show the progress," he said.
Barkley said he was taking the firefighters to dinner at Cabo Wabo, owned by rock guitarist Sammy Haggar, in Harvey's hotel-casino.