The Caldor fire continued its march through dense forest in the Sierra Nevada toward Lake Tahoe on Friday as winds and temperatures are expected to increase and humidity to decrease.
Thousands of firefighters are working to prevent fire from reaching the Tahoe Basin, home to thousands and the destination of millions of tourists who visit the alpine lake on the California-Nevada border.
If the fire continues its path, fire crews plan to make a stop at Echo Summit, a mountain pass where US Route 50 begins its descent into Lake Tahoe.
“Everything is going very well along Highway 50,” said Cal Fire Operations Chief Cody Bogan. “The fire has receded very slowly… we only allow it to do so at its own speed. It’s working in our favor. “
Johnny White and Lauren McCauley left their home near Echo Summit on Thursday after seeing flames on the webcam at their local ski resort.
Even when ash rained down under a cloud of dense smoke, the couple did not panic because they had an early warning to leave and wanted to avoid a last minute pandemonium.
“You don’t want everyone in the basin to panic and rush to try to leave at the same time,” McCauley said.
The Caldor fire is one of nearly 90 major fires in the US There were more than a dozen major fires in California alone, including one that destroyed 18 homes in Southern California.
A new fire broke out Thursday in the foothills of the Sierra, forcing evacuations near the historic city of Sonora, due to the gold rush, just tens of miles from Yosemite National Park.
The fires in California have destroyed around 2,000 structures and forced thousands of people to evacuate, while also blanketing large swaths of the west with unsanitary smoke.
Climate change has made the west warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more destructive, according to scientists.
The Caldor Fire has been the nation’s top firefighting priority due to its proximity to Lake Tahoe, where its tourism economy should be in full swing this time of year.
“This is the week before Labor Day weekend, a very busy weekend, normally,” said Joe Irvin, South Lake Tahoe city manager. “That will not be the case this year.”
On Thursday, visitors were still crowding the road that runs along the giant lake and biking and walking along the beaches, but many are wearing masks. The lake, known for the clarity of the water and the granite peaks that surround it, has been engulfed in dense smoke that has reached dangerous levels.
The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority has advised tourists to postpone their trip.
The Caldor fire has burned more than 139,000 acres, or 218 square miles (565 km2), and was only 12% contained Thursday.
Retired fire district captain Joe McAvoy, who lost his own home in the fire, said the wildfires of more than 100,000 acres were unique events in his career. Not anymore.
“Now it looks like it’s 100,000 acres,” McAvoy said. It’s much more extreme … now [fires] It’s 100,000 acres and it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, big deal.’ You know, it’s all fires. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism