High winds threaten to whip up Caldor Fire approaching Lake Tahoe; nears 200K acres

Wildfire Watch

Evacuation information for the Caldor Fire is at the bottom of this story.

The Latest – Tuesday, Aug. 31:

7:20 p.m.

The Caldor Fire has burned 199,632 acres and is at 18% containment.

6:15 p.m.

There are new evacuation warnings in Douglas County, Nevada.

  • Foothill Rd from Centerville Lane north to Muller Lane
  • Valley side of Kingsbury Grade & any homes accessed by Foothill Road between Centerville Lane & Muller Lane

5:15 p.m.

Cal Fire announced new evacuation orders and warnings for Alpine County. They include:

  • Highway 88 at Forestdale Road
  • West of Forestdale Road and south to the Pacific Crest Trail Crossing
  • West of the Pacific Crest Trail to the Summit City Canyon Trail
  • West of Summit City Canyon Trail and south to the El Dorado/Stanislaus National Forest Line
  • El Dorado/Stanislaus National Forest Line west to the Alpine and Amador County line
  • North of Highway 88, along the Alpine/El Dorado County line and Armstrong Summit to the Nevada state line
  • West of the Nevada state south to Luther Creek
  • Northwest of Luther Creek to Woodfords
  • North of Highway 88 and Highway 89 to the Alpine/El Dorado County line

Click or tap here to see the new evacuations in their entirety.

4:25 p.m.

Cal Fire announced the following evacuation orders for communities in Douglas County, Nevada:

  • Upper Kingsbury (South)
  • Upper Kingsbury (North)
  • Central Kingsbury
  • Lower Kingsbury
  • Round Hill region and roads, including Lower Elks Point
  • Lake Village
  • Lower Olivers, Kahle Drive region and roads

Click or tap here to see the full details for the Douglas County evacuation orders.

Original story below:

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP/KTXL) — A day after an explosive wildfire emptied the city of South Lake Tahoe, a huge firefighting force braced for strong winds Tuesday as residents in neighboring Nevada were put on notice to be ready to flee.

The Caldor Fire has scorched 191,607 acres, nearly 300 square miles, since breaking out Aug. 14. After the weekend’s fierce burning, containment dropped from 19% to 16% Tuesday morning. More than 600 structures, including 486 homes, have been destroyed. At least 33,600 more were threatened. 

For links to Caldor Fire resources, click or tap here.

The South Lake Tahoe unit of the California Highway Patrol said by noon Tuesday, no structures had been lost in Meyers.

South Lake Tahoe, usually bustling with summer tourists, was eerily empty Tuesday and the air thick and hazy with smoke from the Caldor Fire, one of two major blazes plaguing California. On Monday, roughly 22,000 residents jammed the city’s main artery for hours after they were ordered to leave as the fire advanced, chewing up drought-stricken vegetation.

City officials said only a handful defied the order. But nearly everyone worried Tuesday about what the fire would do next.

“It just kind of sucks waiting. I mean, I know it’s close down that way,” said Russ Crupi, gesturing south from his home in the Heavenly Valley Estates mobile home park, which he and his wife manage for a living. He had arranged sprinklers and tractors around the neighborhood.

“I’m worried about what’ll be here when people come back. People want to come back to their houses and that’s what I’m going to try to do,” he said.

Pushed by strong winds, the Caldor Fire crossed two major highways and burned mountain cabins as it swept down slopes into the Tahoe Basin. More firefighters arrived just after dark Monday, and many were dispatched to protect homes in the Christmas Valley area, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from South Lake Tahoe.

Click or tap here to see the current fire perimeter.

Thick smoke prevented air firefighting operations periodically last week. But since then, nearly two dozen helicopters and three air tankers dumped thousands of gallons of water and retardant on the fire, fire spokesman Dominic Polito said Tuesday.

A Red Flag Warning for critical fire conditions was issued for Monday morning through 11 p.m. Wednesday across the Northern Sierra.

Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered a message to evacuees at a press conference Tuesday, saying that the state is doing “everything in our power to have your back.”

“It’s the number one priority in the state. It’s our number one priority, we’re putting everything we’ve got on it,” Newsom said.

The Lake Tahoe area is usually a year-round recreational paradise offering beaches, water sports, hiking, ski resorts and golfing. South Lake Tahoe bustles with outdoor activities while just across the state border in Stateline, Nevada tourists can gamble at major casinos.

But on Tuesday, only a few dozen tourists remained on the casino floor of the Montbleu Resort, Casino and Spa. The state board that controls gaming said that casino regulators were monitoring operations at the four largest gambling properties in the city.

Hotels are housing evacuees, fire crews and other emergency personnel. In all, Harrah’s, Harveys Lake Tahoe Casino, the Hard Rock and Montbleu Resort have more than 2,200 hotel rooms.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak urged residents to be prepared, saying there was no timeline for when evacuations might be ordered. At a news conference in Carson City, he noted that ash was falling on him even though the fire was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away.

“I’m standing here and I’m getting all ash particulates on my jacket, even,” the governor said. “This is serious, folks.”

Evacuation shelters at community centers in Carson City and Douglas County were at capacity, officials said Tuesday. Additional sites were open at a park in Carson City, the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and a rodeo event center in Dayton and Lyon County fairgrounds in Yerington.

At the Douglas County Community & Senior Center in Gardnerville, people had their temperature checked before entering a gymnasium of cots set up by the Red Cross. Outside, evacuees who had stayed in tents sorted through ramen noodles and plastic bags of clothes and keepsakes.

South Lake Tahoe resident Lorie Major was at the grocery store when she got the alert on her phone.

“I had to tell myself: ’OK, Lorie: Get it together. It’s time to go,’” she said.

She put on headphones, turned on the Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain” and walked home to an empty apartment complex already vacated by neighbors. She and her mini Australian shepherd, Koda, took a 20-mile (32-kilometer) taxi ride from her South Lake Tahoe apartment to a hotel in Minden, Nevada.

More than 15,000 firefighters were battling dozens of California blazes, with help from out-of-state crews. Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive, scientists say.

The threat of fire is so widespread that the U.S. Forest Service announced Monday that all national forests in California would be closed until Sept. 17.

Crews are battling the Dixie Fire, the second-largest wildfire in state history at 1,260 square miles (3,267 square kilometers). The weeks-old fire was burning about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of the Lake Tahoe-area blaze and prompting new evacuation orders and warnings this week.

The last two wildfires that ripped through populated areas near Tahoe were the Angora Fire that destroyed more than 200 homes in 2007 and the Gondola Fire in 2002 that ignited near a chairlift at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

At the evacuation center in Gardnerville, Joe Gillespie said he, his girlfriend and her son left their home in Meyers south of South Lake Tahoe on Sunday, bringing clothes, picture frames and collectibles like Hot Wheels toys from the 1960s that Gillespie’s mother gave him.

Gillespie, a mechanic at Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, said that unlike the northern shore of Lake Tahoe, which is dotted with mansions and second homes, the area currently under threat houses blue-collar workers who make their living at the casinos and ski resorts that make the area so popular.

The Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort is beloved for its unpretentious and comparatively affordable winter prices. It turns 75 this year, he said.

“It sounds like we won’t be opening because of the fire,” he said.

For the latest information on evacuation orders, click or tap here.

Residents can sign up for their county’s emergency alert system for evacuation information using the links below:

Evacuation information can also be found at the social media pages and sites below:

The following locations have been listed as evacuation centers: 

  • Reno-Sparks Convention Center at 4590 South Virginia Street in Reno, NV, in Washoe County
  • Douglas County Community Center at 1329 Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville, NV, in Douglas County: For Douglas County residents only [FULL]
  • Carson City Community Center at 851 East William Street in Carson City, NV, in Douglas County [FULL]
  • Dayton Event Center/Rodeo Grounds at 500 Schaad Lane in Dayton, NV, in Lyon County: Has room for 100-150 recreational vehicles; Dry camp only
  • Lyon County Fairgrounds at 100 95A East in Yerington, NV, in Lyon County: Has room for 200+ recreational vehicles and can also house large animals at the fairgrounds; Dry camp only 
  • Green Valley Church at 3500 Missouri Flat Road in Placerville, CA, in El Dorado County
  • Cameron Park Community Center at 2502 Country Club Drive in Cameron Park, CA, in El Dorado County
  • Rolling Hills Church at 800 White Rock Road in El Dorado Hills, CA, in El Dorado County
  • Italian Picnic Grounds at 581 Highway 49 in Sutter Creek, CA, in Amador County [TEMPORARY]
  • Truckee Veterans Hall at 10214 High Street in Truckee, CA, in Nevada County

The Tahoe Transportation District is providing transportation to evacuees. Those who need transportation out of evacuated areas can call 775-589-5500, extension 3. The Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless also says anyone unable to transport themselves out of South Lake Tahoe can meet in front of the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel or call 530-600-2822 if they are unable to make it to the hotel.

Families who need assistance sheltering small animals can contact the El Dorado County Animal Services at 530-621-5795. Families with large animals can contact the Amador County Fairgrounds at 530-621-5795 or 530-647-6227.

Families heading to Nevada can house their animals at the following locations:

  • Douglas County Animal Services (small animals) at 921 Dump Road in Gardnerville, NV, in Douglas County
  • Douglas County Animal Services (livestock) at the Douglas County Fairgrounds at 920 Dump Road in Gardnerville, NV, in Douglas County
  • East to West Coast Grooming at 1368 Highway 395, Unit B1, in Gardnerville, NV, in Douglas County
  • Fuji Park (small and large) at 601 Old Clear Creek Road in Carson City, NV, in Douglas County

El Dorado County has opened a Local Assistance Center to provide county and state services and provide resources and information to residents impacted by the Caldor Fire. The center is located at the Folsom Lake Community College El Dorado campus. Click or tap here for additional information.

From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., residents can also call the Caldor Fire information line at 530-303-2455.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Don't miss

Latest News

More News