Firefighters are trying to keep the Caldor wildfire from engulfing the iconic Lake Tahoe recreation area where millions of people visit each year.
Cal Fire Director Thom Porter said during a Monday afternoon news conference that the fire “is knocking on the door to the Lake Tahoe Basin.”
The fire, which broke out on Aug. 14, has now burned more than 126,000 acres, or some 197 square miles in El Dorado County and was 11 percent contained as of Wednesday, according to Cal Fire officials.
“We have all efforts in place to keep it out of the basin, but we do need to also be aware that that is a possibility based on the way the fires have been burning and the concerns that we have been living in all of these other fires and their growth,” Porter said.
No evacuation warnings or orders for the Tahoe basin have been issued, according the KCRA:
The Caldor Fire jumped Highway 50 near Kyburz on Saturday, and a 40-mile stretch of the highway between Sly Park and Myers was closed Friday. Residents who live between Meyers and Twin Bridges are allowed to travel on the highway but must show identification and proof of residency.
Cal Fire said over the weekend that they do not anticipate reopening Highway 50 in the near future as the fire still poses a threat to those traveling on that road.
As of Wednesday, Cal Fire said 461 homes and 11 commercial buildings had been confirmed destroyed. About 17,488 structures remain threatened, and evacuation orders remain in place for thousands of people.
Jeff Marsolais, a forest supervisor for Eldorado National Forest, said in the KRCA report:
This fire has just simply outpaced us. We emptied the cupboards of resources, and the local fire chiefs of Amador and El Dorado counties sent every resource they could, and no matter how many folks we try to get on it, it just continued to outpace us.
The San Francisco Chronicle also reported on the threat to the Lake Tahoe area:
The skies, typically as blue as the lake, were a yellowish gray and the normally pine-scented air reeked. Campgrounds and beaches were closed, boats were banned from the lake and even the signature gondola that carries visitors from the Stateline area to Heavenly’s mountaintop resort was shut down. Brewfest, a craft beer tasting fundraiser slated for the coming weekend was called off along with a pair of Eric Church concerts in the outdoor Lake Tahoe Amphitheater behind Harvey’s casino. It was not the late summer at the lake that residents and visitors are used to.
“We’ve never seen this much smoke here, ever,” said Joe Stella, a manager at the Powder House ski, snowboard and bike rental shop. Normally, he would have rented 20 to 25 bikes to tourists eager to ride South Lake Tahoe’s scenic bike routes.
But not on Tuesday. Air quality index levels reached hazardous levels and health officials advised people to stay indoors. And most did. The resorts, casinos and shopping centers — and the bike paths — were largely empty.
The Chronicle reported that Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the White House has approved a request for a federal disaster declaration, which will expand assistance for housing, medical, and legal services, among other things, in several counties impacted by two other wildfires, the Dixie and River fires.
The same assistance could be offered to victims of the Caldor fire once officials assess the damage, Newsom’s office said in a press release.
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