Caldor Fire evacuation orders expand to Lake Tahoe's south shores

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued that extend to the south side of Lake Tahoe on Monday morning.

The orders applied first to Tahoe Keys, Tahoe Island and other areas around South Lake Tahoe, but were expanded to Heavenly, the Nevada border and more areas, Cal Fire said.

The first evacuation warnings for South Lake Tahoe had been issued Sunday night. 

A long line of slow-moving traffic was seen near the town as residents and visitors heeded the call to flee. A cavalcade of vehicles barely moved through a gray haze, choking all lanes of Highway 50. 

"The town’s crazy. Just trying to get out and get safe. I was here for the Angora Fire but it wasn’t this severe. So it’s a little scary but we have all of our stuff," said evacuee Sara Ellis. Added fellow evacuee Tyler Slater, "We stayed as long as we could. Now we all waited a little bit too late. We wish everybody would have gotten out sooner."

The drive to safety is a long and slow one.

"All of a sudden they have all of these people leaving and there’s only one way out of town," evacuee Mel Smothers said while playing the love theme to Romeo & Juliet on a violin as he stood next to a miles-long traffic back-up on Highway 50.

Many of the evacuees are moving east into Nevada. Some hotels in Stateline, Nevada; such as the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, are offering space for those affected.

"It’s important to follow all the orders from local authorities for evacuation information issuance, because conditions change rapidly," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Emergency Operations System.

Experts said long before the order came, residents and businesses should have gathered supplies, important medications and documents, and clothing, in order to leave as quickly as possible.

"All of the things that are required to maintain your mobility and you capability as you move from your home to another location," said Dr. Frannie Edwards, former OES director for the City of San Jose. "Make sure that they have a plan for connecting with all of the family members in the household."

For detailed information about evacuation, consult Cal Fire, the El Dorado County sheriff and other authorities. 

Time lapse footage from a Forest Service camera showed that the flames were not far overnight from the ski lifts at the Sierra at Tahoe resort.

Another area threatened by the fire is Berkeley's Echo Lake Camp, the city's mayor Jesse Arreguin tweeted. Berkeley firefighters were on hand to protect the camp, he added.

The Caldor Fire, which erupted August 14. By Monday evening it has burned more than 186,000 acres in El Dorado County and is 15% contained, according to Cal Fire. The fire has destroyed 482 homes, along with more than nearly 200 businesses and other structures. Containment dropped over the weekend from 19% as firefighters struggled to keep up with the rapidly advancing fire.

Senator Dianne Feinstein said she has been closely monitoring the Caldor Fire and its impacts. 

"I’ve been in contact with federal and state emergency officials to ensure they have every available resource," Feinstein said in a statement. Adding, "I encourage everyone to stay safe by following all evacuation orders."

Monday evening, Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for additional counties related to the Caldor Fire, including; Alpine, Amador and Placer counties.

A red flag warning is in effect on Monday and last into Tuesday, meaning that firefighters may encounter more difficult conditions as they try to control the fire. 

Strong winds were in the forecast for the area, which could make it easier for the flames to spread. 

There are more than 3,600 firefighters and other personnel assigned to combatting the Caldor Fire.

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