Evacuation orders for Nevada; Fireplace approaches Lake Tahoe
CARSON CITY, Nevada – With the growing Caldor Fire penetrating Lake Tahoe, evacuation orders in Nevada expanded as the flames moved east.
The fire has forced thousands of people to flee their homes as it sinks into California’s Lake Tahoe Basin. On Tuesday, the fire spread across the Nevada state line.
Residents in parts of Douglas County have been told to leave the area as the fire has grown to nearly 320 square miles with only 20% containment, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Safety said.
Another warning of a possible fire hazard will come into force on Wednesday. The National Weather Service said low humidity and gusts of wind of up to 45 miles per hour over ridges in the sierra could help ignite new flames.
Firefighters are fighting the growing fire in the poor conditions just 3 miles outside of South Lake Tahoe, but they were aided by better than expected weather overnight. “We were a little lucky yesterday,” said Tim Ernst, chief of Cal’s fire department.
Evacuation centers have opened in Nevada to take in the 22,000 residents of South Lake Tahoe and others in the area. However, as the evacuation zone expanded, the Carson City and Douglas Counties accommodations were near or full on Tuesday.
Patrick Mack fled South Lake Tahoe when the jammed line of cars subsided Monday. Mack didn’t want to go, but he had no choice.
“I was forced to leave,” he said. “I wanted to go back, but the smoke is just as bad here, so I can’t imagine what it looks like in town.”
When he fled, Mack’s two dogs, his wife and her boyfriend were in front of him. They broke up and didn’t reconnect.
“I just sit there,” he said on Tuesday at the Fuji Park Fairgrounds, where he built a shelter in a parking lot and went to sleep on the cement, “because walking around doesn’t help when you’re … looking for someone.”
According to Cal Fire, winds carried the embers of the fire more than a mile from the line of fire. Flames raced from treetop to treetop and containment lines in parts of the fire were threatened on Tuesday, Cal Fire said.
The fire destroyed nearly 550 homes and over 180 other buildings, but more than 34,800 other buildings are at risk, Cal Fire said.
Ernst said that while the wind was active, the firefighters would have an overnight opportunity to make progress in slowing the growth of the fire.
Along the section of fire that threatens to move closer to Nevada, Ernst said the crews had created lines to protect homes and other buildings. Closer to South Lake Tahoe, Ernst said, the crews also set up guard lines. “This whole community is looking really good right now,” he said.
“The fire there burned out extremely quickly, extremely hot. And we did our best, ”said Erich Schwab, head of the Cal Fire Division, about the efforts of the fire fighters to protect remote cabins in an area of fire.
Lake Tahoe is known for its glamor. But thousands of Caldor Fire evacuees are workers.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 83 major fires are burning in 10 states, affecting more than 3,900 square miles. In California, 13 major fires burn over 2,200 square miles.
Timothy Pritchard panicked when the police knocked on his door. “I had to pack what I could,” said the 64-year-old pensioner.
He grabbed important legal documents, credit cards, and checkbooks. However, he left behind several sentimental items, including memorabilia of his late girlfriend.
“I just pray to God they’re there, but I had to do what I had to do,” he said.
Pritchard, who had lived in South Lake Tahoe for 13 years, was one of the first evacuees to arrive in Reno, Nevada after being turned away from a Carson City animal shelter that was at its maximum capacity.
“I’m tired and stressed right now,” he said.
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Tuesday, Nevada’s Governor Steve Sisolak remained hopeful that crews could keep the raging Caldor Fire from crossing Nevada’s borders, but said the state was ready to fight the fire should it escape Lake Tahoe’s natural bathtub.
Sisolak said he was pleased with the profits firefighters have made in a day since the National Guard was deployed to help fight the fire.
“We are using all of our resources, everything we have available,” Sisolak told reporters when the ashes fell outside Nevada’s Emergency Operations Center in Carson City.
Officials with the Nevada Division of Forestry determined that the Caldor fire is only the second fire to reach the Sierra in recorded history.
The other is the Dixie Fire, which started in late July and is still burning near Lassen Volcanic National Park. The forest fire, the second largest in the state’s history, grew to 1,318 square miles on Wednesday, with a 52% containment, Cal Fire said. It also resulted in new evacuation orders this week.
The fire in Caldor not only threatened people’s homes and businesses, but also the scenic outdoor activities.
Heavenly and Kirkwood – owned by Vail Resorts – had no property damage as of Tuesday afternoon, spokeswoman Susan Whitman said. However, all employees and guests had to leave, she confirmed in an email.
As the flames moved towards Heavenly on the California-Nevada border, officials turned on the mountain’s snowmaking machines.
The fire burned at Sierra-at-Tahoe, a resort on the west side of the Tahoe Basin near Echo Summit, but initial reports showed the base, lodge, administration building and equipment store were saved, according to Mike Reitzell , President of Ski California, an organization that represents ski resorts across California and Nevada.
“We know that there will be damage,” said Reitzell.
Contributors: James DeHaven and Amy Alonzo, Reno Gazette Journal; The Associated Press
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