Blaze rages around Lake Tahoe; blame game begins in earnest

What’s to blame for the raging fire that has burned more than 200 homes near California’s South Lake Tahoe? Try the homogenous stands of white fir planted post-clear-cut by 20th-century miners. Or was it this year’s low-snow winter and current drought? Perhaps criticism should be leveled at homeowners who failed to clear brush and otherwise reduce fire risk on their property. Or the U.S. Forest Service; while President Clinton unveiled a forest-thinning plan to reduce fire risk in the Tahoe area a decade ago, the USFS didn’t settle on a regional risk-reduction plan until this April. Greens haven’t escaped blame either; they haven’t appealed any forest-thinning projects since 1997, but they have decried the effects of controlled burns and logging — practices some say could have lessened the fire’s impacts. As the as-yet-uncontained fire rages on, it leaves in its wake hillsides stripped of vegetation, clouds of ash in Tahoe’s famous blue waters, and frustrated finger-pointers with no easy scapegoat.