SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KTXL) — Labor Day at Lake Tahoe usually sees thousands of people every year, but the Caldor Fire is leaving beaches and businesses completely empty.
“This isn’t Tahoe. We have so many people up here, and it’s a ghost town,” said resident Rosie Wolf.
It was an odd yet refreshing homecoming for evacuees Rosie and Neil Wolf.
“We’re working on our eighth day, I believe, out of our home,” Neil Wolf said.
After spending days in and out of shelters and motels, the Wolfs were thankful to see the Caldor Fire’s flames did not spread to their nearby home where they’ve lived since 1991.
On a typically busy Labor Day, the lake is full of kayakers and swimmers. The calmness on the water this year was an unusual sight.
“Even during the pandemic, every day there were so many people that were coming up here just to get away from their problems, and now, here we are almost like a ghost town,” Neil Wolf said.
“We were expecting a lot of crowds since this being the long weekend. We thought there is no space to walk around, but today everything is ours,” said visitor Chethan Kumar.
For Kumar and his family, Lake Tahoe was one of their most anticipated destinations on their 10-day road trip. Yet, on Monday, they were seeing and hearing the toll the Caldor Fire has taken on the once-bustling vacation site.
“In Carson City, there was a family. She was around 60, 70 years (old). She was telling a story that she was evacuated and is planning to go back today, and she is missing her home a lot. And we felt for her,” Kumar said.
As both families enjoyed what they could at the lake, Director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center at UC Davis Dr. Geoffrey Schladow said their researchers were working hard to see the effects of the fire on the water.
“The Caldor Fire was just an order of magnitude larger than anything we’ve ever experienced before,” Schladow said. “There’s ash and very fine particles falling into the lake. Just the ash itself will affect clarity. The ash carries nutrients with it that will stimulate algal growth. Just all the smoke in the air reduces the amount of light and the amount of UV radiation.”
Despite appearances, Dr. Schladow said it is still safe for beachgoers to take a cool dip, making it a good day for the Kumars and an even better day for the Wolfs.
“We got the call that we were back to warning in Kingsbury and here we are back. Don’t know when we’re going to get to our house on North Upper Truckee Road, but it’s nice to at least be back in town,” Wolf said.
Dr. Schladow said another reason why the water looks murky is because it’s reflecting the sky. They still need to do more research to determine if Tahoe’s clarity will be affected for a short time period or a long time.