No arrests ever made in Angora Fire


By Kathryn Reed

Even if someone were arrested or admits to having been responsible for the Angora Fire, he or she may never be punished other than through their own guilt or if vigilantism takes over.

Angora Fire — 5 years later

It would depend on the state and/or federal charges that could potentially be levied against the person or persons if he or she would be brought to justice. Various statutes of limitations have passed or are close to passing.

Hundreds of people were interviewed after the June 24, 2007, fire that reduced 254 houses to ashes. It was almost immediate that fire investigators located the ignition point near Seneca Pond in the Upper Truckee neighborhood on the outskirts of South Lake Tahoe.

“On the second day of the fire a group of us narrowed it to the general origin area,” Beth Brady, fire investigator with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, told Lake Tahoe News.

While a person of interest was questioned extensively, not enough evidence could be secured to arrest that person.

“We often go after wildfires civilly instead of criminally. It has to do with intent,” explained Lauren Horwood with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento. “Arson is willful, deliberate. If it’s negligence, that is different than a crime.”

The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office is now the lead agency on the investigation. Investigator Bill Dillard told Lake Tahoe News tips still occasionally come in and all are followed up.

What the area near where the Angora Fire started in 2007 looks like five years later. Photo/LTN

“In this particular case I have a strong suspect lead, but I don’t feel like there is enough probable cause to go forward,” Dillard said.

Finding the origin

Because of the intensity of the fire Brady and others were not able to get into the Seneca Pond area the first day. But she knew based on reports from firefighters first on the scene and the fire’s behavior where it was likely to have started before stepping into the forest.

With the houses already destroyed, this blaze was significant on Day 1. A high-level fire investigator was brought in to see if he would narrow the ignition area to Seneca as well without being told what others were thinking. He came to the same conclusion.

Investigators use a process adopted by the National Fire Protection Association to track down where a fire started.

“We work our way backward following burn patterns and marks left on trees and rocks,” Brady explained. Witness statements factor in as well.

After the larger perimeter is established, investigators begin looking for micro indicators of the fire’s origin.

“We still look for marks left, but we could be on our hands and knees looking at individual pebbles or grass stems,” Brady said.

Angora was determined to have started by a campfire that was not fully extinguished. This is a locals spot; a known spot for young people to party. Seneca is a decent size pond about a quarter mile in from the houses on Seneca Road. Beyond it are some large granite boulders, with the largest one being the closest to where the campfire was.

“At this particular campfire there was limited forensic evidence, but there were certain characteristics of the campfire that were unique. But for the integrity of the case we don’t want to describe what they were,” Brady said. “I will say it did not have evidence of a large party fire we see in the woods … where there is a big bonfire and lots of beer bottles around.”

Without being shown where the starting point was or being a fire investigator, it would be impossible to know where the location is.

But looking around, surveying the area today, lush green is just to the south of the spot. The winds swirled that Sunday, bringing the fire close to the streets that lead to this play area before flames whipped north up Angora Ridge and through the neighborhood just below it. So many trees here and elsewhere in the burn area are white. The bark is gone. It’s like they are skeletons of a forest.

“I hope and pray that one day we will find out who is responsible and we hold them responsible so there is closure for this community,” Dillard said.


Note: Anyone with information regarding the Angora Fire investigation is encouraged to contact Bill Dillard at or (530) 903.8041.











About author

This article was written by admin


Comments (11)
  1. tony colombo says - Posted: June 3, 2012

    I cannot fathom living with the guilt of starting the fire. We have been told it does not matter, we should “move forward”
    This we have done, and are still doing. Here is the reality of the Angora fire. Speaking for myself, revenge does not come to mind. Yes, insurance replaced our home. What we are sick and tired of is spending the last 1/2 decade re-vegetating our property. The cost of trees and shrubs is immense. That is of course if they live long enough to root. Go price a tree that almost provides shade. The phrase “off the charts” come to mind. Water is now metered. $$$. Labor for this landscaping is paid for by our own sweat. The guilty party’s insurance could finish the job. There-I said it.

  2. Hang Ups From Way Back says - Posted: June 3, 2012

    We were at the Elks club swap meet,saw the billowing smoke,someone there said they called the fire watch from the forestry ,say it was a control Burn ,so people just went on their merry way ,the rest is history on whom started it ?

    Kinda makes you wonder,since the last big fire in topaz was a fire supposedly put out that came back to life.
    They seem to always stay under investigation when a another agency goes under the microscope ,truth hard to find.

  3. Stan Freeman says - Posted: June 3, 2012

    I am a survivor of the Angora fire and also lost my home to it. Over the past couple of years I have spoken to some people (also survivors) who have told me that on the day of the fire and prior to it starting they were out in the forest service area near Seneca pond when they encountered forest service workers engaged in a supposedly controlled burn. These people have said that it seemed to them that these workers were troubled by this controlled burn that appeared to be getting out of their control. They were ordered to leave the area immediately. Now I am not pointing fingers here but it seems very strange that the authorities have been unable to find anyone responsible and on more than one occasion the word “coverup” has meandered through my mind. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

  4. Hang Ups From Way Back says - Posted: June 3, 2012

    Can you imagine Stan ,if we are all correct,just the complete truth no one coming forward to take the heat,big liability to pay for the damage seems like a good time to cover up play dumb.
    Lots things did come out this mistake,low water pressure on the old water lines,wood chip ground cover,other things came to the surface about safety.
    But all fires are like criminals in the night,they all have different patters,personalities, do more less what they want, no matter what people do to prepare.The wind is a big driving factor when the up draft gets to roaring.

  5. nature bats last says - Posted: June 3, 2012

    I find it rather strange that there are still people out there who want to point fingers at public agencies or environmental groups for the destruction caused by the Angora Fire. I remember that day very clearly and there were some of the strongest winds I ever remember that were gusting that morning at 10:00 am. I was setting up a party in my backyard and things were being blown around way too easily. I thought that the winds were very unusual for that time of day. Of course by the end of the day the damage was done and the winds were still blowing. I recall that a abandoned campfire built in the rocks near Seneca Pond was listed as the cause of the fire. I have been a wildland fire fighter and I know that winds can bring to life many a “doused campfire”, or even a discarded cigarette butt. The point is that this fire was really the result of eratic winds. Why these facts are ignored are probably because everyone wants to have someone to blame for their loss. I dont blame those of you that did have such great loss but the facts are there and its very unlikely that the fire would have done the damage it did if it wernt for the winds.

  6. dumbfounded says - Posted: June 3, 2012

    Odd. My wife and I remember that day very well, too. However, I was fishing on Lake Tahoe until around 12:00 noon and do not recall unusual wind at all. I do not believe that it is accurate to blame the wind. There is someone, somewhere that knows that they caused this fire. It must be terrible knowing what your carelessness did. You are correct though, Nature does bat last.

  7. Hang Ups From Way Back says - Posted: June 3, 2012

    I truly belief that the Van Sickle park is a natural wind tunnel ,you see the gondola close so many times in the winter, it’s my own opinion that when the fire alerts go Red, with wind and very hazard fire condition that that gate should be closed for day use.
    For Years I’ve walked this air before a park was open there, I’ve been up there so many times see people handling cigs,getting high throwing down butt’s ,roaches,wooded matches right there in the trail head area close to the parking area.

    With the right chemistry,wind direction, The Kingsbury could be another Angora Fire rerun, heavenly valley have more than a black forest in white Snow for years to come.
    Charred forest areas are damn ugly.

  8. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: June 3, 2012

    I live in the burn zone and remember that day like it was yesterday. It was extremely windy–the chairpads on the deck chairs and the dogs beds were blowing all over the place. Maybe it wasn’t as bad down on the lake but up here it was windy. I asked a neighbor of mine who works for the forest service and was on Mule Deer Circle fighting the fire how the homes on Mule Deer were saved and he said it was due in large part to the wind scooping up the fire, jumping a whole area and then dropping it down again on the other side. Fire is a scary thing with a mind and life of its own.

  9. John says - Posted: June 3, 2012

    Hang ups you are right. And it will be 2000 houses with fatalities WHEN it happens. The Forest Service and Parks are doing a darn good job on fuels reduction there though.

  10. John says - Posted: June 3, 2012

    Dumbfounded, you are consistently saying dumb stuff. There were 25 mph winds and 45mph gusts up here that afternoon. And no its not the fire departments fault, when a fire starts under those conditions no human force can put it out. The best they can do it steer it a little. No wind? You have got to be kidding me. Lay off the weed, your memory is shot…

  11. dumbfounded says - Posted: June 4, 2012

    Thank you. I never said “…no wind”. But stick with your attacks if it makes you feel good. Like I said, someone, somewhere knows that they caused the fire. The wind, regardless of the velocity, did not cause the fire. That is what I said.