Reverse 911 error tells Tahoe residents to evacuate for Washoe Valley fire
January 19, 2012
A snafu with the regional Reverse 911 system led to Lake Tahoe residents being phoned Thursday afternoon and told to evacuate because a wildfire was threatening their homes.
The large brush fire currently burning in Washoe Valley south of Reno that had scorched at least three homes and was threatening many more along U.S. Highway 395 by 2:30 p.m. Thursday is not in danger of closing in on homes in the Incline Village area, officials said.
The Reverse 911 system is administered by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office that allows the sheriff, fire chiefs and emergency dispatchers to call residents of a certain area to alert them of an emergency.
“Residents in the Incline Village/Crystal Bay area were accidentally called,” said Tia Rancourt, a spokeswoman for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District. “It was a computer error.”
According to various reports, U.S. Highway 395 through Washoe Valley is currently closed as the wildfire burns. Motorists are advised to cancel travel plans.
Strong winds are fueling the blaze near Pleasant Valley north of Washoe Lake, about 10 miles south of Reno. The fire is burning on both sides of the highway and heavy smoke has reduced visibility to zero.
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The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office has called for immediate evacuations in Old Washoe Valley, Saint James Place, and Pleasant Valley.
Pleasant Valley Elementary School has been evacuated by school police. Parents are asked to pick up their children at Damonte Ranch High School.
“Traffic is currently being diverted at Laramie Drive,” WCSO officials said. “We are asking residents to avoid 395 North and Southbound at Laramie Drive.”
NLTFPD has sent overhead personnel, as well as an engine and a hand crew to assist with fighting the blaze, Rancourt said.
For road conditions visit http://www.safetravelusa.com/nv/.