LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KTXL) – Lake Tahoe, one of the world’s great tourist destinations, has already survived the COVID-19 pandemic, with safe outdoor activities being a highlight for visitors, but the Caldor Fire is a different situation as the smoke outdoors drove tourists away even before the mandatory evacuations.
Just before Labor Day weekend, the area’s visitors bureaus are telling visitors to stay away.
“I’m sure everyone understands this is not the right time to be in Tahoe and we hope to invite you all back soon,” said Andrew Chapman with the Incline Village-Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau.
Tourism in Tahoe is a $3 billion economy.
Hotel bookings heading into the Labor Day holiday were already down 30%, but economic officials say a better-than-expected year might carry businesses through.
“Labor Day is kind of the last hurrah of summer, it’s not really the key period, it’s the icing on the cake,” Chapman explained. “But right now I think there are other issues at hand.”
But there can be longer-term consequences of so much fire ash because it can muddle the clear lake water for months.
Warm summer temperatures have caused potentially algae blooms in bodies of water all over the state and the ash is a nutrient supply for the plant which may also threaten Lake Tahoe.
“That’s a recipe for algae blooms on the surface and that’s a big concern. It’s a possibility in the marinas and small bays,” explained Jeff Schladow with the Tahoe Environmental Research Center at UC Davis.
The hope is Tahoe can begin a recovery environmentally and economically when the fire is extinguished.