Caldor Fire threatens 33,000 homes and businesses near Lake Tahoe

Fire officials have issued evacuation orders and warnings around Lake Tahoe Basin as the massive Caldor Fire continues to rage in Northern California, burning more than 191,000 acres and ravaging hundreds of homes and businesses. 

The Caldor Fire, which is 15% contained, has destroyed 669 structures and damaged 40 others as of Tuesday, according to CalFire. As the fire spreads towards the Lake Tahoe area, it threatens to torch more than 33,600 homes and businesses in its path. More than 3,500 firefighters are working to control the blaze, which has injured five people.

Fire officials issued mandatory evacuations in El Dorado and Alpine counties on Sunday. More than 24,000 residents have been told to evacuate near Highway 50, which connects Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe. 

“To put it in perspective, we’ve been seeing about a half-mile of movement on the fire’s perimeter each day for the last couple of weeks, and today, this has already moved at 2.5 miles on us, with no sign that it’s starting to slow down,” Eric Schwab of CalFire said in a news conference Sunday.

Caldor Fire Lake Tahoe
Fire burns near a chairlift at Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort in Twin Bridges, California, on August 30, 2021. JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty

“Today has been a rough day. There’s no bones about it,” Jeff Marsolais, the supervisor of El Dorado National Forest, told reporters Sunday. “I think the team is doing an excellent job of trying to stay in front of a very evolving fire. Today, it let loose.”

The Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe was forced to close its doors and transfer all patients to partner hospitals. “Barton Memorial Hospital is now closed due to the ongoing threat of the Caldor Fire,” the hospital tweeted Sunday. “All patients have been transferred to regional partner facilities.”

Meanwhile, the Dixie Fire, the largest wildfire in the state, has burned more than 807,000 acres and was 48% contained as of Tuesday, CalFire said. The Dixie and Caldor fires are the first wildfires to ever burn from one side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range to the other, according to CalFire Chief Thom Porter.

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

Lake Tahoe, known for deep blue waters and crisp mountain air, has been blanketed by smokey air. Now, the flames are threatening entire towns that line the lake. Firefighters are making a desperate stand trying to protect neighborhoods filled with log cabins.

“Tourists should be gone,” said Chief Clive Savacool, of South Lake Tahoe Fire. “If anybody is still here as a tourist, they need to pack up and leave. Anybody who doesn’t have to be in South Lake Tahoe needs to get out now.”

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