Wildfire forces thousands from popular Lake Tahoe resort

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Wildfire Forces Thousands From Popular Lake Tahoe Resort Wildfire Forces Thousands From Popular Lake Tahoe Resort
Western Wildfires, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Sam Metz, Associated Press

Thousands of people rushed to get out of South Lake Tahoe as the entire tourist resort city came under evacuation orders and wildfire raced towards the large freshwater lake of Lake Tahoe, which straddles California and Nevada.

Evacuation warnings issued for the resort city of 22,000 on Sunday turned into orders on Monday. Vehicles loaded with bikes and camping gear and hauling boats snaked through thick, brown air that smelled of campfire.

“This is a systematic evacuation, one neighbourhood at a time,” South Lake Tahoe police Lt Travis Cabral said on social media. “I am asking you as our community to please remain calm.”


The Caldor Fire burns at Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort (Noah Berger/AP)

The new orders come a day after communities several miles south of the lake were abruptly ordered to evacuate as the Caldor Fire raged nearby.

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South Lake Tahoe’s main medical facility, Barton Memorial Hospital, proactively evacuated 36 patients needing skilled nursing and 16 in acute care beds on Sunday, sending them to regional facilities far from the fire, public information officer Mindi Befu said. The rest of the hospital was evacuating following Monday’s expanded orders.

The entire Lake Tahoe area in the Sierra Nevada mountains is a recreational paradise for San Francisco Bay Area locals looking for a weekend getaway, as well as a national destination. The area offers beaches, water sports, hiking, ski resorts and golfing.

South Lake Tahoe, at the southern end of the lake, bustles with outdoor activities, with casinos available in bordering Stateline, Nevada.

South Lake Tahoe Mayor Tamara Wallace prepared to leave with her husband, youngest child, dogs and items given to them from their deceased parent — objects that cannot be replaced.

She did not think the Caldor Fire would come so close. Fires in the past did not spread so rapidly near the resort city.

“It’s just yet another example of how wildfires have changed over the years,” she said. “It’s just a culmination of 14 to 18 more years of dead trees, the droughts we’ve had since then, those kinds of things.”

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The region faces a warning from the National Weather Service about critical fire weather Monday through Tuesday.

The fire destroyed multiple homes on Sunday along Highway 50, one of the main routes to the south end of the lake.

It also roared through the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort, demolishing some buildings but leaving the main buildings at the base intact.

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