September 24 2021 03:30 pm

Many South Lake Tahoe evacuees waiting out Caldor Fire at Nevada convention center

Wildfire Watch

RENO, NEV. (KTXL) — Thousands of South Lake Tahoe evacuees have had to make their way across the state line to Nevada.

Since June, the American Red Cross has had to provide more than 13,000 overnight stays due to wildfire evacuations, including at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

“So far, this is the craziest event I have ever seen,” said Brandon Canfield.

It’s been a hard couple of days for Canfield, a born and raised South Lake Tahoe resident who is now calling the Reno-Sparks Convention Center home.

“We didn’t think it was going to get this bad, but when it happened, it happened,” said Canfield’s friend, Timothy Pritchard.

Pritchard described the moment they were told to evacuate from Tahoe on Saturday as the flames from the Caldor Fire came closer.

“Sheriff’s came to the door at 2 o’clock in the morning, going door to door saying, ‘Pack and get ready to go,’” he told FOX40. “And it looked like it was snowing outside, and big chunks of black soot was dropping down.”

Canfield and Pritchard both hopped on an evacuation bus to a shelter in Carson City, Nevada, only to find thousands of others were doing the same thing.

“They said, ‘You can’t stay here, it’s packed. Keep going to the Civic Center.’ And when we got here we were the first ones here,” Pritchard recalled. 

“We are never overcapacity at Red Cross shelters. There’s always room at Red Cross shelters,” said Red Cross Public Affairs Coordinator Kim Mailes.

Mailes said contrary to the rumors of the convention center being full, the Red Cross prepared for this occasion. They are encouraging more evacuees to come and get the care they need.

“I believe it was on Sunday night, we began moving our logistics teams in here with trucks and trailers filled with cots and feeding supplies and health supplies and things we need to set up a shelter, and had them in position,” Mailes explained. “The American Red Cross can open as shelter for 500 people within just a few hours, maybe as few as three hours.”

Volunteers have been working hard to provide evacuees with as much care and comfort as possible.

“I needed oxygen and I couldn’t bring it with me, I just had too much to bring,” Pritchard said. “So I told them I needed oxygen and Lincare. So I ordered it and two hours later they came up with a brand new machine.”

For many, it’s difficult to think about what’s happening back home.

“We just don’t know. We don’t know how long we’re going to be out here,” said evacuees Sandi Barker and Debra Dillard.

“I’m hoping the next couple of hours they can control this fire so I can go home within the next couple of days,” Canfield said.

“I feel sorry for the firefighters on the frontlines,” Pritchard said. “I pray for them every night.”

South Lake Tahoe residents aren’t the only ones seeking shelter at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. The Caldor Fire has forced hundreds of residents in Douglas County, Nevada, to evacuate. Most of them are being told the soonest they can go home is Sept. 18, which may change depending on the firefight.

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