SIERRA-AT-TAHOE – South Lake Tahoe turned into a mass evacuation zone on Monday as the raging Caldor fire forced residents to flee and authorities urged everyone along the south shore to leave the area.
“It’s time to start,” Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said on Monday.
Highway 50, one of the few roads outside the region, was blocked heading east toward Nevada as vehicles blocked the road. Authorities closed Highway 89 southbound at Emerald Bay and McKinney / Rubicon, forcing anyone in the southern portion of Tahoe to leave the area through Carson City, Nevada. Highway 50 remained closed indefinitely in both directions between Pollock Pines and Meyers.
Fire crews continued their efforts to slow the blaze, which started on August 14 and was only 14% contained on Monday. The fire destroyed 472 single-family homes and 11 commercial properties, while damaging 39 other structures. 20,414 other structures are threatened, according to Cal Fire.
The Caldor fire crossed about 20,000 acres in a 24-hour period, including about seven miles northeast of Highway 50 and an eight-mile run elsewhere, authorities said.
âIt’s really tough for us,â Porter said. âIt burns in the heavy wood and deep gorge of the Highway 50 Corridor Canyon. It is very difficult terrain and conditions to fight the fire against.
The east side of the blaze is a particularly difficult area, he said. The weather and smoke combined to create a bit of a reversal last week, according to Porter, slowing it down and allowing crews to get their first containment. But with the return of red flag weather conditions this week – and winds expected to reach speeds of 15 to 20 mph and gusts of 30 mph – the struggle to contain the flames at the edge of the Tahoe Basin has become more difficult.
âYou take the lid off this inversion, and it’s like taking the top off a pot of boiling water. The steam is going to go everywhere, âPorter said. The blaze that spread on Sunday night, he added, was the largest firefighters have seen since the blaze began.
The red flag warning, which went into effect at 2 p.m. Monday, will last until Tuesday evening, according to the National Weather Service. Conditions are also expected to stoke the Dixie Fire, the second-largest wildland fire in the state’s history, which started over a month ago and has burned more than 770,000 acres. On Monday, this fire was 48% under control.
âWe didn’t have fires from one side of the Sierra (Nevada) to the other,â Porter said. âWe did it with the Dixie Fire. And now with the Caldor. Twice in our history and both this month.
Across the state, more than 15,000 people are fighting 15 active fires. The fires have burned more than 1,761,821 acres in California so far this year.
On the south shore of Lake Tahoe, evacuation orders have been issued for all of El Dorado County. In South Lake Tahoe, Barton Memorial Hospital has evacuated all of its patients, transferring them to regional partner facilities ahead of mandatory evacuation orders Monday morning.
Areas under mandatory evacuation included:
- All residences in the Tahoe Keys community and all residents accessible from the streets connected to Tahoe Keys Boulevard, staying east of 3rd Street.
- The Tahoe Island area east of Hwy 50 / Hwy 89 at the intersection of Lake Tahoe Blvd / 50/89. This includes the Barton Hospital area and the Winnemucca area to intersection 50/89. This area also includes the area north of Hwy 50 west of Tahoe Keys Boulevard following the north side of Hwy 89 to the end of town before Pope Beach.
- All residences off Lakeview Avenue, west of Highway 50, north of Blue Lakes Road and east of the Tahoe Keys neighborhood.
- The Sierra Tract, including all residences on both sides of Highway 50 for streets connected to O’Malley Drive, Lodi Avenue, Silver Dollar Avenue, and Rubicon Trail
- Le Bijou, including all residences between Al Tahoe on the east side of Johnson Boulevard to include Treehaven Drive and Fremont Avenue streets and extending east into all residences west of Ski Run Boulevard and to the east. east of Pioneer Trail
- The section from Emerald Bay in the north to the Placer County line in Tahoma, extending in the west to the Desolation Wilderness border
- The area from Sawmill Road to Lake Tahoe Boulevard, extending north to Pope Beach, and along the waterfront to Eagle Point in the west to Desolation Wilderness across Emerald Bay
- The Elks Club area along Highway 50 and on the west side of the Pioneer Trail. This area includes the streets of Hekpa Drive, excluding the residences west of the airport. It also includes all the residences accessible from Jicarilla Drive, Washoan Boulevard and Glen Eagles Road; as well as the areas of Cold Creek Trail, High Meadows and Marshall Trail
- Gardner Mountain, northwest of South Lake Tahoe Airport and west of Hwy 50 / Lake Tahoe Boulevard and the intersection of Hwy 89 to include South Lake Tahoe High School, Tahoe Verde and streets accessible from 5th and 15th streets south of highway 89.
- The area east of the Pioneer Trail to the Alpine County Line ending south of Heavenly Ski Resort, including all residences outside of the Pioneer Trail
Authorities urged those leaving the area from Fallen Leaf and Tahoma to head north on Hwy 89 toward Truckee, and told everyone else to go east on Hwy 50 by direction of Nevada, where Governor Brian Sisolak declared a state of emergency shortly before 3:00 p.m. due to the ongoing red flag warning and expected impacts on Douglas and Washoe counties.
South Lake Tahoe’s air quality index at noon Monday was 72, meaning it was moderately healthy, but hit low in the mid-200s by 4 p.m. The weekend readings fell into the very unhealthy category, with fine particles between 200 and 300, and are expected to increase further this week.
The fire spread northeast to the Lake Tahoe Basin, and the resort town of Sierra-at-Tahoe – located between Strawberry and Echo Summit – was turned this weekend into a key stop for the teams from Cal Fire and the US Forest Service working to stop the flames. . Thousands of homes, vacation getaways and wilderness around the lake shores have been threatened.
Dozens of bulldozers, masticators, water dispensers and trucks filled the central parking lot of the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort, waiting to make their way down the slopes and widen the lines. of containment in the 2,000 acres of surrounding federal forest.
When the sun rose on Monday, the two-mile road to the Sierra-at-Tahoe was surrounded on both sides by blackened forest, and the hills leading to the resort’s wilderness were charred.
Many important buildings in Sierra-at-Tahoe were still standing, along with ski lifts in the immediate vicinity.
To help those evacuating, authorities have opened a new shelter at Truckee Veterans Hall at 10214 High Street in Truckee. A Red Cross shelter was also opened at the Douglas County Community Center at 1329 Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville, Nevada.
Please check for updates.