September 20, 2021

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California wildfire smoke forces residents inside as tourists urged to stay clear – Fox Business

3 min read

Known as a pristine tourist destination, Lake Tahoe is almost unrecognizable under the heavy, grey shroud of wildfire smoke.

A summer vacation hotspot, the northern California city of South Lake Tahoe is home to more than 22,000 residents. 

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Pictures on the city website show clear blue skies and emerald waters surrounded by a forested and rocky landscape.

Now, the skies are filled with ash from the approaching Caldor Fire

The Caldor Fire, which started earlier this month in the Sierra Nevada, has grown to 145,463 acres.

Fire crews carry a hose down a hill as the Caldor Fire burns on both sides of Highway 50 about 10 miles east of Kyburz, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, as the fire pushes east prompting evacuation orders all the way to Echo Summit. The Caldor Fir (Sara Nevis/The Sacramento Bee via AP)

The blaze is one of 14 active large fires in the Golden State and more than 2.5 million acres have been taken in active fires across the U.S.

The fire has been so difficult for personnel to fight and fire managers pushed back the projected date for full containment from early next week to Sept. 8. 

While evacuations have been ordered for nearby Christmas Valley and other parts of El Dorado County, residents of South Lake Tahoe are on alert. 

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With an unhealthy air quality index measuring at 173, according to the government’s AirNow, the message from the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority is clear: stay out of the area until further notice.

“Currently we are recommending that visitors postpone any immediate travel plans to the area until firefighters are able to get the Caldor Fire under control,” the authority wrote in a Twitter post.

“When and as appropriate, the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority will provide return visitation information and updates pending safety and health conditions. The current priority is the health and safety for our community and assisting firefighting efforts,” the agency said on its website. 

The area’s tourist economy is normally in full swing this time of year.

“This is the week before Labor Day weekend — a busy weekend, normally,” South Lake Tahoe City Manager Joe Irvin said. “That is not going to be the case this year.”

Visitation began to drop when Highway 50 closed and a Dierks Bentley country music concert was canceled.

Now, numerous parks in the area have also been closed and the Lake Tahoe Unified School District in South Lake Tahoe postponed the opening of the school year to Sept. 7.

President and CEO of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Carol Chaplin said she believes occupancy is currently below 30%. 

The Caldor Fire burns on both sides of Highway 50 about 10 miles east of Kyburz, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, as the fire pushes east prompting evacuation orders all the way to Echo Summit. The Caldor Fire, the nation’s top priority for firefi (Sara Nevis/The Sacramento Bee via AP)

Local businesses are reducing hours or days and even temporarily closing.

Irvin issued a proclamation of local emergency to “allow for greater flexibility” in South Lake Tahoe’s response to the Caldor Fire.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a report on the fire that “social, political, and economic concerns will increase as the fire progresses toward the Lake Tahoe Basin.”

The city last declared a wildfire emergency during the 2007 Angora Fire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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