California Fire Approaches Lake Tahoe After Mass Evacuation

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This Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, image provided by Maxar Technologies, shows a Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), a true-color image overview of the wildfires at Lake Tahoe, in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Climate change has made the region warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more destructive, according to scientists.

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With the Caldor Fire approaching, traffic on Highway 50 stands still as South Lake Tahoe, Calif., as residents try to evacuate on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021.

Noah Berger/AP


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Noah Berger/AP

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As the Caldor Fire approaches South Lake Tahoe, Calif., 40-year Tahoe resident Chris, who declined to give his last name, lies in a pick-up truck while evacuating on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. His car moved about 60 feet in an hour as evacuating residents filled Highway 50.

Noah Berger/AP


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Noah Berger/AP

As the Caldor Fire approaches South Lake Tahoe, Calif., 40-year Tahoe resident Chris, who declined to give his last name, lies in a pick-up truck while evacuating on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. His car moved about 60 feet in an hour as evacuating residents filled Highway 50.

Noah Berger/AP

South Lake Tahoe resident John Larson said the evacuation probably went as smoothly as possible, considering how swiftly flames moved into the area.

«The fuel went so fast and it climbed the ridge so quick,» Larson said of the fire after settling into an evacuation center at a park in Carson City, Nevada. Red Cross volunteers set up the facility with 50 cots after another evacuation center in nearby Gardnerville reached capacity.

The fire destroyed multiple homes Sunday along Highway 50, one of the main routes to the lake’s south end. It also roared through the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort, demolishing some buildings but leaving the main buildings at the base intact. Crews used snow-making machines to douse the ground.

Cabins burned near the unincorporated community of Echo Lake, where Tom Fashinell has operated Echo Chalet with his wife since 1984. The summer-only resort offers cabin rentals, but was ordered to close early for the season by the U.S. Forest Service due to ongoing wildfires.

Fashinell said he was glued to the local TV news. «We’re watching to see whether the building survives,» he said.

The Caldor Fire has scorched nearly 292 square miles (756 square kilometers) since breaking out Aug. 14. After the weekend’s fierce burning, containment dropped from 19% to 15%. More than 600 structures have been destroyed, and at least 20,000 more were threatened. Gov. Steve Sisolak on Monday declared a state of emergency in Nevada, citing «the anticipation» that the wildfire in the Lake Tahoe area in California would burn across the state line into the Silver State.

The National Weather Service warned of dangerous fire conditions and winds through Wednesday.

Diane Kinney, who has lived in the city since the 1970s, said this is the first time her neighborhood has been ordered to evacuate. She and her husband were packing up keepsakes, jewelry and insurance papers shortly after noon. They had to leave their 1964 Chevelle, but she hopes it stays safe.

«Everybody wants to live in Lake Tahoe. There are definitely advantages of being in the mountains, being with these beautiful pine trees,» she said. «But we definitely have to get out now.»

  • weather events
  • California wildfires
  • Nevada
  • climate change

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