Agencies draw criticism at Tahoe fire forum

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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (AP) - Officials who promised to help victims
of a major Tahoe Basin fire got polite applause at a Monday night
forum - but the loudest cheering was for victims of the Angora Fire
who questioned whether bureaucratic red tape hindered advance
efforts to prevent such disasters.
California Assemblyman Ted Gaines, joined by Nevada Governor Jim
Gibbons and officials from various agencies and groups, promised
the fire victims that he'd work to curtail the bureaucracy. The fire that erupted nearly a month ago destroyed more than 250
homes on the California side of the Tahoe Basin.
Dozens of Tahoe residents spoke at the forum, including Chris
Horton, who home was burned down. Horton said he believed the fire
was fueled in part by hundreds of piles of slash left on the ground
by crews clearing out the woods in the past.
Lane Sykes, whose home was damaged, said the bistate Tahoe
Regional Planning Agency, which oversees the area, prevented him
from removing pine needles around his property. He said those pine
needles contributed to the damage to his home.
Other speakers called for the use of heavy machinery to help
remove trees in stream zones which can become pathways for
spreading fires - although officials insisted that such clearing
methods have been utilized in some areas.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-07-24-07 0102EDT