Our Opinion: Fires don’t wait for deadline


The level of accuracy of any report, whether from the newspaper or the fire services, is entirely dependent on time and distance from the front. Things that seem plausible from Sacramento don’t make any sense in South Lake Tahoe. Something that’s true at 6 a.m., can go from marginally inaccurate at 9 a.m. to a complete lie by 2 p.m.

With the Caldor Fire slowing down to a crawl, now might be a good time to raise the question of communication.

We’ve received a lot of support for our fire coverage, but we admit we’re only hitting the high spots.

A rare phone call from a public information officer on the fire might be illustrative.

He’d heard there was some information on The R-C’s web site he wanted to verify, so he called to check.

The proposal to “herd the Caldor Fire into the Tamarack Fire burn,” was the most concerning. We agree. Those two fires are at least seven miles apart and would have to cross Highway 88 and burn down Woodfords before they got close. No one thinks that’s a good idea.

More interesting is a call from someone who said we’d reported a spot fire above Hope Valley on Tuesday. What we said was there was a heat spot on a fire map, but we could have used clearer language. At 6 a.m. when the story was posted, it had been burning in the last six hours. At 4 p.m., not so much.

And there’s the challenge in covering a fire of this magnitude. From Placerville, Caldor and Tamarack look like they’re right next to one another. A hot spot at 6 a.m., if things go according to plan, will become a much cooler one as the day progresses.

When the Tamarack Fire pivoted from burning toward Foothill to rolling into the Pine Nuts, trying to keep track of where the fire was at any given time was a project for everyone.

Because all that material is online, people can pick and chose what to read, and generally that’s going to be the flashiest, juiciest material available.

That’s why we try to say where and when we get our information in each report, so at least there’s some context.

As the fire slows down, the effort to find something newsworthy to say about it will, too. Nothing would make us happier than to be able to finally shut up about it, and move on to something else.


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