California authorities lifted mandatory evacuation orders for South Lake Tahoe on Monday, allowing the resort town’s 22,000 residents to return home.
The decision marked a confidence milestone in fighting the Caldor fire, but the fire remains only 48% contained and still threatens areas south of the city.
Firefighters are facing aggressive winds and flames in some southeast sections of the Caldor fire, which could still reach Meyers, a more than a mile-high community known as the gateway to Lake Tahoe, and other areas, including Kirkwood Ski Resort.
And while evacuation is no longer mandatory for the smoke-covered city on the lake’s southern shore, more than 5,000 people are still working to protect the surrounding resort communities and the homes of employees who work in casinos, restaurants, and ski resorts. .
“We are also looking at what is going to happen in the long term, in four, five or six days. We want to make sure we are planning and have everything ready and completed, ”said Cal Fire official John Davis. “And if it arrives earlier, we are already in the planning process for the entire area that is still under evacuation order.”
When the 876-square-kilometer wildfire engulfed pine trees and crossed the Sierra Nevada last week, South Lake Tahoe was transformed into a ghost town. The city appeared to recover slightly on Monday, but almost empty compared to normal holiday weekends.
“I was sincerely convinced this place was going to be ruined,” Lake Tahoe Community College student Dakota Jones said on his return Monday. “It was nice to see that I was wrong.”
The Caldor Fire broke out Aug. 14, burning up to 1,000 acres per hour at its peak as it swept through dense forests, tree-dotted granite cliffs, and scattered cabins and villages in the northern Sierra Nevada. Through tactics including tearing down defense lines and dumping Lake Tahoe water on the flames, teams successfully carved a perimeter around much of the wildfire.
Firefighters are still expecting hot spots, but hope to make enough progress to lift more evacuation orders in the coming days. Much depends on the wind, rain and lightning that the coming storms can produce.
The winds have calmed down, allowing firefighters to make progress in containing the conflagration, but authorities remain concerned about the southwest winds that cause specific fires. In Northern California, the weather is expected to cool slightly and humidity to increase starting Tuesday.
California and much of the western U.S. have experienced dozens of wildfires in the past two months as the hot, drought-stricken region suffocates under dry heat and winds drive flames across the vegetation.
More than 14,500 firefighters battled 14 active fires in the state on Monday, and since the year began, more than 7,000 wildfires have engulfed 3,000 square miles (8,000 square kilometers).
No deaths have been specifically reported from the fires, which have closed all of the state’s national forests.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism