Flames tore through treetops and drought-stricken vegetation as firefighters scrambled Wednesday to keep a growing California wildfire from reaching a resort town at the southern end of Lake Tahoe after evacuation orders expanded to neighboring Nevada.
Strong winds push Caldor Fire closer to Lake Tahoe
Thick smoke from the Caldor fire enveloped the town of South Lake Tahoe, which was nearly deserted during a summer week usually filled with tourists.
The National Weather Service warned that critical weather conditions through Wednesday could include extremely low humidity, dry fuel and gusts up to 30 mph (48 kph).
“With those winds, as it ran through the forest, it created what’s called an active crown fire run, where the fire actually goes from crown to crown. “, said Stephen Vollmer, fire behavior analyst.
He said embers were being thrown up to a mile in front of the fire, creating new ignition points, even in some parts of the dense forest that haven’t burned since 1940 or earlier.
The fire was 3 miles outside South Lake Tahoe on Tuesday afternoon, said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Henry Herrera.
A day earlier, about 22,000 residents clogged the city’s main artery for hours after being ordered to leave as the fire progressed.
The Lake Tahoe area is often a year-round recreational paradise offering beaches, water sports, hiking, ski resorts and golf. South Lake Tahoe is packed with outdoor activities, while across the state line in Stateline, Nevada tourists can gamble at major casinos.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak urged residents to be prepared, and said there was no timetable 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.