Caldor fire escalates and evacuations are ordered near Lake Tahoe

A wildfire that had burned remote areas of Sierra Nevada for two weeks peaked on Monday and began to descend towards major population ce...


A wildfire that had burned remote areas of Sierra Nevada for two weeks peaked on Monday and began to descend towards major population centers along Lake Tahoe.

As the Caldor fire escalated in dry and windy conditions, thousands of people along the lake’s southern and western shores were ordered to evacuate. Fire crews rushed to put out point fires just miles from South Lake Tahoe, California.

Tourists normally flock to the lake on the California-Nevada border during the summer months for boating, fishing, hiking, eating, and drinking. But by sunset Monday, the community seemed to be still.

In the crowded streets hours earlier, shops and businesses – motels, restaurants, supermarkets – were deserted. The roads were empty except for fire trucks and TV reporters who documented the disturbing calm.

It was impossible to know when, if at all, the fire would reach the city. But people did not stay to test the fury of a blaze that fire officials say could threaten more than 20,000 structures.

Public safety officials have warned that the Caldor fire, the last to hit California for a particularly ruthless summer for the firefighters of the West, showed no signs of sagging. He had burned over 177,000 acres and was 14 percent content Monday.

The compulsory evacuation zone stretched from Tahoma, California, on the western shore of the lake, to the Nevada border. “It was a few tense times, I think, for our citizens of South Lake Tahoe today,” said David Stevenson, the city’s police chief, at a press conference. press conference Monday evening.

As of Tuesday, nearly all of California’s national forests will be closed until September 17 for public safety reasons. The National Meteorological Service published a red flag warning for the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades, meaning that extremely dry conditions and wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour were likely to cause forest fires to spread in the mountains.

The warning will remain in effect until 11 p.m. Wednesday for the area, which was covered in mist on Monday. The smoke from the fire had deteriorated the air quality to unhealthy levels, the US Forest Service said.

On Monday, firefighters were battling fires along a twelve-mile section of an old Pony Express route that connects the gold rush towns along the densely forested western slope of the Sierra Nevada. In some places, crews drew water from the American River to put out spot fires and protect cabins dotted along Highway 50.

Even at 5,000 feet elevation, mid-afternoon temperatures were in the 90s, unusually warm for the Sierra. Plates of fire burned on both sides of the road.

In the midst of the fire, the sky was orange and the valleys a thick slate of impenetrable smoke.

Along the granite cliffs that descend to the Lake Tahoe Basin, firefighters chased a point fire that had started on the slopes toward South Lake Tahoe. Firefighters and city officials had hoped the granite wall would serve as a protective shield for communities along Lake Tahoe. But the winds carried embers which rushed down the cliffs.

Many evacuees faced bumper-to-bumper traffic after several major roads in the area were closed. Photographs showed cars stopped on Highway 50, the main thoroughfare along the southeastern shore of the lake.

Chief Stevenson said he was stranded for about three and a half hours on Highway 50 on Monday.

“I am so grateful that our citizens heeded the warning and the order and evacuated the city,” he said.

The lake, which is known for its sapphire waters and coves surrounded by evergreen leaves, is especially popular with vacationers in the Bay Area. It is home to several famous ski resorts and casinos, just across the border from South Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nevada. Several concerts that were scheduled this week at Harveys Lake Tahoe Casino have been postponed due to the threat of fire.

Although forest fires do occur every year in the West, scientists are seeing the influence of climate change in the extreme heat waves that have contributed to the intensity of the fires this summer. Prolonged periods of unusually high temperatures are a sign of climate change, they say.

As the Caldor fire threatened Lake Tahoe, the Dixie fire, the largest single-origin wildfire in California history, continued to rage through the upstate. That fire had burned more than 771,000 acres in five counties as of Monday and was about 48% contained, according to Cal Fire.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Caldor fire escalates and evacuations are ordered near Lake Tahoe
Caldor fire escalates and evacuations are ordered near Lake Tahoe
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