Lake Tahoe threatened by massive fire

Fire officials ordered more evacuations around the Tahoe Basin as a two-week old blaze encroached on the threatened mountain towns surrounding glimmering Lake Tahoe.

By nightfall, all residents on the California side of the Lake Tahoe Basin were warned to evacuate the region, after fire officials had stressed for days that protecting the area was their top firefighting priority.

“Today’s been a rough day and there’s no bones about it,” Jeff Marsoleis, forest supervisor for El Dorado National Forest, said Sunday evening. A few days ago, he thought crews could halt the Caldor Fire’s eastern progress, but “today it let loose.”

Flames churned through mountains just a few miles southwest of the Tahoe Basin, where thick smoke sent tourists packing at a time when summer vacations would usually be in full swing ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

“To put it in perspective, we’ve been seeing about a half-mile of movement on the fire’s perimeter each day for the last couple of weeks, and today, this has already moved at 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) on us, with no sign that it’s starting to slow down,” said Cal Fire Division Chief Erich Schwab.

Some areas of the Northern California terrain are so rugged that crews had to carry fire hoses by hand from Highway 50 as they sought to douse spot fires caused by erratic winds.

The Department of Defense is sending 200 U.S. Army soldiers from Washington state and equipment including eight U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft to help firefighters in Northern California, the U.S. Army North said in a statement Saturday. The C-130s have been converted to air tankers that can dump thousands of gallons of water on the flames.


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