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Thousands forced to flee Lake Tahoe as Caldor, California fire rages on

NBC Los Angeles reported vehicles loaded with bicycles and camping gear and transport boats meandering through thick, brown air that smelled of fire. Police and other emergency vehicles rushed past.

“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. “

Monday’s evacuation orders come a day after communities several miles south of the lake were ordered to evacuate, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Flames swept through the mountains a few miles southwest of the Tahoe Basin on Sunday, where thick smoke sent tourists packing their bags at a time when the holidays were in full swing ahead of Labor Day weekend. .

The Caldor fire, which erupted on Aug. 14, was 19 percent under control on Sunday after burning nearly 245 square miles – an area larger than Chicago. More than 600 structures were destroyed and at least 18,000 others were threatened.

Terrain in the area makes the blaze difficult to contain, officials said.

Some areas of the Northern California terrain are so rugged that crews had to haul hand-held fire hoses from Highway 50 as they sought to put out spot fires caused by irregular winds.

Tim stelloh contributed.