- A red flag warning was in effect in the northern Sierra for the next two days.
- Evacuation warnings have been extended to cover the city of South Lake Tahoe and surrounding areas.
- Winds and dry conditions fuel the spread of the fire.
Thousands of people rushed out of South Lake Tahoe on Monday after the entire tourist resort town was placed on evacuation orders as a massive wildfire moved towards the iconic freshwater lake , which straddles California and Nevada.
Evacuation warnings issued on Sunday for the resort of 22,000 people turned into binding orders on Monday, forcing thousands of locals and tourists visiting the area before Labor Day to pack and leave. Vehicles loaded with bicycles, camping gear and tow boats meandered through thick, brown air that smelled of campfire as police and other emergency vehicles rushed past.
Conditions continued to deteriorate in the northern Sierra. Low humidity and gusty winds were to challenge firefighters who were urgently working to keep the blaze away from the popular vacation spot with scenic beaches, emerald blue waters, rocky shores and stunning Sierra Nevada landscapes. .
The evacuation order covers almost the entire city of South Lake Tahoe and surrounding areas. The fire containment line was about 10 miles south of the lake.
As the fire burned around Highway 50 to the west, residents were told to head east toward Nevada. The photos showed roads crowded with residents and tourists, who frequent the scenic freshwater lake in the summer, eager to flee the area. Authorities urged those who were leaving to remain calm.
Following:South Lake Tahoe, generally bustling now, is empty and choking on smoke from the Caldor fire
Following:Caldor fire: Sisolak declares emergency, Highway 50 crowded as thousands flee South Lake Tahoe
“This is a systematic evacuation, one neighborhood at a time,” South Lake Tahoe Police Lt. Travis Cabral said on social media. “I ask you, as a community, to remain calm.”
The fire destroyed several homes on Sunday along Highway 50, one of the main roads leading to the southern end of the lake. The fire also roared through the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort, destroying some buildings but leaving the base’s main buildings intact.
The neighborhoods of the 20,000-strong community have turned into ghost towns. The tourist destination typically receives crowds of visitors ahead of the Labor Day holiday. Instead, souvenir shops and restaurants were closed as the Caldor fire continued to rage every day.
“Being closer to the state border is just pure tourism with everyone coming here for the casinos,” said Breeana Cody, McP’s Taphouse Grill employee. “But everything is pretty vacant right now.”
Cody said it had been smoky for days. Ash also blanketed the area.
“September until the end of the year is pretty good, but Labor Day weekend is really our big hurray,” Cody said.
With fewer customers, deciding who should work and when with less income has also been a delicate balancing act for businesses in the region.
Officials at Barton Memorial Hospital said earlier Monday that all patients were being evacuated and transferred to partner facilities. The hospital can treat up to 63 patients and has a qualified nursing facility with 48 beds.
The blaze remained active overnight, particularly in the northeastern sections of the blaze, and embers traveled up to 800 meters, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
El Dorado National Forest supervisor Jeff Marsolais said firefighters had hoped to stop the flames from spreading east, but on Sunday “it broke loose.”
“Today has been a tough day, and there are no bones about it,” he said.
The Caldor Fire began on August 14 and burned more than 276 square miles. It’s only 14% content, according to Cal Fire. More than 470 homes have been destroyed and at least five people injured, Cal Fire said.
Fire crews battled over rough terrain, in some cases carrying hoses from Highway 50 to extinguish point fires caused by the winds. Several homes were destroyed along the highway, as well as minor structures at the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort.
Learn more about the Caldor fire:South Lake Tahoe under evacuation warning as crews struggle to slow the blaze
Winds and dry conditions fueled the spread of the blaze on Sunday. “To put it in perspective, we’ve seen about half a mile of movement around the fire perimeter each day for the past two weeks, and today that has already moved 2.5 miles. on us with no sign whatsoever is starting to slow down, ”Cal Fire Division chief Eric Schwab said.
Press from the blaze in the east brought its flames much closer to the popular resort area around Lake Tahoe, where thick smoke prompted many to leave. Cal Fire said nine national forests in the region have been temporarily closed.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 85 large fires and complexes that are currently burning have burned more than 3,900 square miles. California alone has 13 major fires.
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East of the Caldor blaze is the Tamarack blaze, which firefighters have largely contained to 82%. The Dixie Fire, further north and 48% contained, is the second largest in state history at 1,196 square miles. The Dixie Fire destroyed 1,277 homes and other buildings, according to Cal Fire.
Climate change has led to particularly active fire seasons in the West in recent years. Warming temperatures have allowed fires to burn more easily and more frequently.
Contributor: Jorge Ortiz, USA TODAY; Kristin Oh, Reno Gazette Journal; The Associated Press