Home Internet California fire approaches Lake Tahoe after mass evacuation

California fire approaches Lake Tahoe after mass evacuation

by Mary Sewell

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A massive firefighting force gathered Tuesday to defend Lake Tahoe from a raging wildfire that forced the evacuation of California communities on the south end of the alpine resort and put others across the state line in Nevada on notice to be ready to flee.

0 vfv650f5

The streets of the popular vacation haven, generally filled with thousands of summer tourists, were all but deserted after the rapid growth of the Caldor Fire forced a mass evacuation on Monday and triggered hours of gridlocked traffic.

“It’s more out of control than I thought,” evacuee Glen Naasz said of the fire that by late Monday had been pushed by strong winds across two significant highways, burning mountain cabins as it swept down slopes into the Tahoe Basin.

More firefighters arrived just after dark Monday, and many were dispatched to protect homes in the Christmas Valley area, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the city of South Lake Tahoe.

Thick smoke prevented air firefighting operations periodically last week. But since then, 23 helicopters and three air tankers dumped thousands of gallons of water and retardant on the fire, fire spokesman Dominic Polito said.

The National Weather Service warned of critical fire weather conditions through Wednesday due to strong gusts, low humidity, and extremely dry fuels.

Ken Breslin was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic more petite than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from his home in the city of 22,000, with only a quarter-tank of gas in his Ford Escape. His son begged him to leave Sunday night, but he shrugged him off, sure that if an evacuation order came, it would be later in the week.

“Before, it was, ‘No worries … it’s not going to crest. It’s not going to come down the hill. There’s 3,500 firefighters, all those bulldozers, and all the air support,'” he said. “Until this morning, I didn’t think there was a chance it could come into this area. Now it’s genuine.”

As flames advanced toward South Lake Tahoe, residents just over the state line in Nevada faced evacuation warnings.

Monday’s evacuation orders came a day after communities several miles south of the lake were abruptly ordered to leave as the fire raged nearby. South Lake Tahoe’s main medical facility, Barton Memorial Hospital, evacuated dozens of patients. The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office transferred inmates to a neighboring jail.

“There is fire activity happening in California that we have never seen before. The critical thing for the public to know is to evacuate early,” said Chief Thom Porter, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. “For the rest of you in California: Every acre can and will burn someday in this state.”

The threat of fire is so widespread that the U.S. Forest Service announced Monday that all national forests in California would be closed until Sept. 17.

“We do not take this decision lightly, but this is the best choice for public safety,” Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlein said.

More than 15,000 firefighters were battling dozens of California blazes, including crews from Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia, said Mark Ghilarducci, California’s Office of Emergency Services. About 250 active-duty soldiers were being trained in Washington state to help clear forest debris by hand.

You may also like

Leave a Comment