Calmer winds bring some relief to South Lake Tahoe fire

The Caldor Fire in South Lake Tahoe, California forced 22,000 residents to evacuate this week. The battle against the fire isn’t over as hot weather continues to loom, but reduced winds are bringing a brief respite for firefighters. 

Jae C. Hong/AP
Firefighters carry a water hose up the hill to extinguish a backfire set to prevent the Caldor Fire from spreading near South Lake Tahoe, California, Sept. 2, 2021. On Friday, the Caldor Fire spanned around 330 square miles and was 27% contained.

Fire crews took advantage of decreasing winds to battle a California wildfire near popular Lake Tahoe and were even able to allow some people back to their homes but dry weather and a weekend warming trend meant the battle was far from over.

The Caldor Fire remained only a few miles from South Lake Tahoe, which was emptied of 22,000 residents days ago, along with casinos and shops across the state line in Nevada.

The wind-driven fire that began Aug. 14 had raged through densely forested, craggy areas and still threatened more than 30,000 homes, businesses, and other buildings ranging from cabins to ski resorts.

But there was optimism and progress as winds eased on the fire’s western flank while in the northeast, despite gusty ridgetop winds, firefighters with bulldozers and shovels were steadily hacking out fire lines or burning away vegetation to box in the flames before they reached Tahoe.

“In the valleys we’re doing plenty of work,” fire information officer Marco Rodriguez said. “The crews are working and they’re doing controlled fires ... to try to make those containment lines a little bit stronger.”

Residents who were forced to flee South Lake Tahoe earlier this week remained evacuated along with people across the state line in Douglas County, Nevada.

The resort can easily accommodate 100,000 people on a busy weekend but on Thursday, just before the Labor Day weekend, it was eerily empty.

Yet after days of flames threatening to engulf the resort at any moment, any respite was welcome.

“I feel like we are truly the luckiest community in the entire world right now. I’m so incredibly happy,” said Mayor Tamara Wallace, who evacuated to Truckee, California.

“It’s finally a chance to take a breath,” said Clive Savacool, chief of South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue. “It’s a breath full of smoke. Nonetheless, I think we’re all breathing a little bit easier and we feel like we’re making some progress.”

Russ Crupi, who two days ago was arranging sprinklers around his mobile home park in South Lake Tahoe just miles from the fire line, had turned off the water for now, feeling confident his neighborhood was no longer under threat. The nearby mountains, cloaked in smoke for most of the week, had become visible.

“I’m just happy they stopped it. It looked close,” he said.

Farther west, evacuation orders were lifted or downgraded to warnings in several areas of El Dorado County.

Friday’s forecast called for lighter winds but also extremely dry daytime weather, with a warming trend through the weekend as high pressure builds over the West, fire officials said.

The Caldor Fire spanned some 330 square miles and was 27% contained. Its northeast tip was about 3 miles south of South Lake Tahoe.

More than 15,000 firefighters were battling dozens of California blazes that have destroyed at least 1,500 homes. One blaze, the Dixie Fire, was about 65 miles north of the Caldor Fire. It is the second-largest wildfire in state history at about 1,350 square miles and is 55% contained.

California has experienced increasingly larger and deadlier wildfires in recent years as climate change has made the West much warmer and drier over the past 30 years. Scientists have said weather will continue to be more extreme and wildfires more frequent, destructive, and unpredictable. No deaths have been reported so far this fire season.

President Joe Biden on Thursday pledged robust federal help for the Northeastern and Gulf states battered by Hurricane Ida and for Western states beset by wildfires – with the catastrophes serving as deadly reminders that the “climate crisis” has arrived.

“These extreme storms, and the climate crisis, are here,” Mr. Biden said in a White House speech. “We must be better prepared. We need to act.”

This story was reported by The Associated Press. Janie Har reported from San Francisco. AP writers Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Calmer winds bring some relief to South Lake Tahoe fire
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today