- Another red flag warning Tuesday in northern California could worsen conditions for firefighters.
- The Caldor fire hit Hwy 89 on Monday after a massive evacuation from South Lake Tahoe.
- Further evacuation orders were issued near the Dixie Fire, the second largest in the state’s history.
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif .– As the Caldor blaze heads toward scenic Lake Tahoe, Monday’s blaze jumped onto a freeway and rose several miles as firefighters scramble to extinguish the blaze .
The approach of the blaze sparked massive evacuation orders in South Lake Tahoe, with residents rushing frantically to head east toward Nevada along Highway 50.
Conditions on Tuesday are expected to further fuel the flames, with a red flag warning remaining in effect across the region. Wind gusts of up to 35 mph and single-digit humidity could cause fires to grow rapidly before they are put out, the National Weather Service said.
Nearby casinos closed on Monday, a local hospital was evacuated, and tourists and residents alike took to the streets at this typically relaxing lakeside vacation spot.
“This is a systematic evacuation, one neighborhood at a time,” South Lake Tahoe Police Lt. Travis Cabral said on social media.
After evacuation orders came into effect for the city’s 22,000 residents, the fire jumped onto Hwy 89 and headed north on a ridge to Meyers in South Lake Tahoe, observed a reporter from the USA TODAY network. Teams were to begin protecting the structures of houses near the community of Christmas Valley.
Parts of Douglas County east of Nevada were also warned Monday evening to prepare for possible evacuations.
The Caldor Fire is one of 83 large fires and complexes burning more than 3,900 square miles across the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
As of Monday evening, the blaze had grown to over 290 square miles, with firefighters having only 15% of the blaze under control. The fire first broke out on August 14.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said winds near the Caldor blaze were creating spots up to a mile from the fire line. The fire threatened the containment lines established along the US 50.
The fire destroyed more than 480 homes and 182 other commercial or smaller structures. At least five people were injured and 3,784 firefighters were fighting the blazes, Cal Fire said. Additional strike teams to protect the homes arrived on Monday evening, firefighter spokesman Dominic Polito said.
“Wherever there are structures, there are firefighters on the ground,” Polito added.
the endangered crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe; Sierra-at-Tahoe main building spared
With pristine blue waters and summer and winter activities abound, the Lake Tahoe area typically attracts 15 million visitors a year.
Beyond the immediate concern for public safety and the thousands of homes at risk, there is the threat the fire poses to the clarity and landscapes around the world-famous lake.
The flames enveloped the hills around the Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, which lost a few minor structures but whose main building was spared. The teams used snow machines to water the ground.
Webcam footage appeared to show firefighters using an elevator at Kirkwood Mountain Resort in their fight to keep the flames out.
Heavenly Ski Resort straddles the state border, with ski lifts and trails in both states. Monday’s evacuation orders included the area around its California operations.
On the Nevada side, the state gambling control board said some resorts have started shutting down parts of their gambling operations.
“We suspect it could escalate over the next few hours,” Nevada Gaming Control Board analyst Michael Lawton said in an email.
The four main casinos in the area are Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Harvey’s, Hard Rock Lake Tahoe, and Montbleu Casino Resort.
Dixie Fire asks for more evacuation orders
Meanwhile, further north in California around the Dixie blaze, the sheriff’s offices in two counties expanded evacuation orders on Monday as crews attempt to prevent the blaze from reaching the hallway of the city. ‘highway 70.
The Lassen County Sheriff’s Office has asked more residents to evacuate as the 7-week fire spread east of Butte Lake in the Lassen National Forest. Near the southern portion of the blaze, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office called on several communities to leave as the blaze spread across the Genesee Valley and Grizzly Ridge and approached Davis Lake in the National Forest from Plumas.
The more than 1,215 square mile blaze is the second largest wildfire in state history, destroying 1,277 structures, including 685 homes, and threatening more than 13,600 others, according to Cal Fire. The firefighters controlled the flames by almost 50%.
A red flag warning was also in effect in the area near the Dixie fire.
Since its start on July 13, the Dixie Fire has consumed about $ 1 billion in wood, with an additional $ 1 billion still at risk, according to the Lassen National Forest Outlook report.
Across California, 13 major wildfires are burning. Climate change has made wildfires more frequent and intense in the West in recent years, scientists say.
The ongoing fires have led forestry officials to close all of the state’s national forests to visitors for at least two weeks in hopes of helping fire crews bring the spiraling crises under control.
“We are not taking this decision lightly, but it is the best choice for public safety,” said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien.
Contribution: Christal Hayes, USA TODAY; Brian Duggan, Amy Alonzo, Kristin Oh, Ed Komenda, David Rodriguez, Reno Gazette Journal; Jessica Skropanic, Redding’s Record Finder; The Associated Press