Northern California’s Caldor Fire has continued its push into the Tahoe Basin overnight on Monday, forcing another 50,000 area residents from Tahoma to Stateline into mandatory evacuation—including heavily populated South Lake Tahoe. The resulting hours-long traffic jams caused by fleeing residents snarled major arteries for the better part of the day.
Heavenly Mountain Resort was also included in this round of evacuations, posting the news to its Facebook page on Monday afternoon: “Heavenly Mountain Resort is under a Mandatory Evacuation from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. We remain in constant communication and are offering our support to the local Fire Department, Cal Fire and United States Forest Service and updates will be provided as more information becomes available.”
On Monday, the U.S. Forest Service also announced a public-safety closure of every national forest in the state, citing extreme wildfire danger. The restriction goes through Sept. 17 and covers the upcoming Labor Day weekend—a significant reason behind the closure.
“We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety,” said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien in a press release. “It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests.”
The wildfire that began August 14 south of Grizzly Flats and has spread quickly due to high temperatures, dry conditions, and strong winds. These persistent conditions have made it difficult for firefighters to contain it. Last week, the wildfire was reported as being almost 20 percent contained, but high winds and temperatures set efforts back over the weekend. As of this morning (Aug. 31), containment is reported at 16 percent, with over 700 structures damaged or destroyed.
The fire threatened Sierra at Tahoe ski resort overnight Sunday into Monday, though recent reports state that the resort suffered minimal damage, with only a maintenance shed burned. Snow guns were transformed into water cannons to fight the advancing fire lines and the entire resort has become a huge staging area from which Cal Fire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) and the U.S. Forest Service advance their strategies to fight the blaze.
“I’ll take whatever I can get,” John Rice, Sierra at Tahoe’s general manager, told the Mercury News on Sunday. “We’re here together to protect this place and stop the fire coming any further than this.”
Kirkwood Mountain Resort was also evacuated on Sunday, but has so far been spared from the fire’s spread. The resorts on the north side of the Lake, including Squaw Alpine and Northstar, are watching the progression but are safe for now. Both resorts have temporarily paused summer operations through at least Sept. 6 to deter people from coming into the region.
Visit Cal Fire’s website for fire updates, evacuation info, and stats about all of the current wildfires. Caldor Fire info is here.