Thousands forced to flee Lake Tahoe tourist area as wildfire spreads rapidly

·3-min read

Thousands of people have been forced to flee California’s Lake Tahoe as the giant Caldor Fire rapidly advanced towards the tourist area.

The evacuation order for the city of South Lake Tahoe and its 22,0000 population came on Monday, the day after residents were warned to voluntarily leave.

All residents were instructed to leave the area east on Highway 50 towards Nevada, and the roads out of the basin were quickly choked with traffic.

“It’s something that’s always in the back of your mind that you hope never happens,” said South Lake Mayor Pro Tem Devin Middlebrook.

“But here we are today, with this threat to our community. And it’s something that we, as a city and as a community, have been preparing for, and hopefully that preparation pays off.”

The Caldor fire had grown to more than 177,000 acres by Monday morning as was just 14 per cent contained.

Officials say that it has destroyed 472 homes since it started two weeks ago and still threatens 21,000.

The evacuation order came a the fire advanced at a rapid pace.

“We had a gain in acreage of more than 25,000 acres,” said Cal Fire Operations Chief Tim Ernst.

“Yesterday as the result of the weather change it pushed the fire to the east by approximately 8.5 miles.”

Conditions are not going to get any easier for 3,500 firefighters battling the blaze in the next few days with high temperatures, high winds and low humidity in the forecast.

“The lid’s off the fire early today everywhere,” Cal Fire incident meteorologist said. “Even on the lower elevations.”

Patients at Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe had already been evacuated using school buses and ambulances as a precaution.

Lake Tahoe is a popular tourist vacation spot but officials say that everyone should have cancelled their plans or left town by now.

“Tourists should be gone,” said South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief Clive Savacool.

“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.”

The fire was first reported near Grizzly Flats, California, on 14 August, and is not expected to be put out until 8 September at the earliest.

The cause of the fire in under investigation.

The Caldor Fire is one of around 90 major fires being tackled in the West and California alone is dealing with more than a dozen, which are being tackled by 15,200 firefighters.

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