Around 14,000 firefighters are battling large wildfires across California including a growing blaze moving toward the resort town of South Lake Tahoe, where local officials issued an emergency proclamation Thursday to bolster evacuation measures ahead of the busy Labor Day weekend.
The emerging Caldor Fire is one of the nation’s top firefighting priorities because of its proximity to Lake Tahoe, where the total population can reach 300,000 during peak vacation days, according to The Associated Press (AP). The fire is one of nearly 90 active large blazes in the U.S. and among a dozen fires in California alone.
“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.”
South Lake Tahoe was a ghost town as thick smoke and swirling ash from the Caldor fire blanketed what is typically a bustling tourist destination.
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) August 26, 2021
Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for El Dorado County on Aug. 17 in response to the growing blaze. The Caldor Fire has burned nearly 144,000 acres of land since emerging Aug. 14 and was only 12% contained as of Friday morning, according to the state’s forestry and fire protection department. (RELATED: California Wildfire Burns Nearly Half A Million Acres Becoming The Second Largest Fire In State History)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has warned that “social, political and economic concerns will increase as the fire progresses toward the Lake Tahoe Basin,” according to The AP.
Irvin issued an emergency proclamation Thursday to better coordinate with federal and state resources in response to the Caldor Fire. The proclamation also allows local officials to waive procurement rules and issue emergency orders to address the situation, according to the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority released a statement Thursday urging tourists to “postpone any immediate travel plans to the area” due to the Caldor Fire. But Carol Chaplin, the group’s president, expressed a “guarded sense of optimism” as first responders with heavy equipment such as air tankers have been conducting operations in the area.
The Nevada Army Guard is working aerial firefighting today over the Caldor Fire southwest of Lake Tahoe with aircrew operating one UH-60 Black Hawk and one CH-47 Chinook. pic.twitter.com/4cMBdyYDTn
— Nevada Guard (@NVNationalGuard) August 22, 2021
Chaplin also told The AP that hotels and lodges around Lake Tahoe were working with public safety officials. She added that businesses in the area “understand that this is not the experience that their guests are used to or look forward to.”