Residents and tourists in a long stretch of Lake Tahoe’s shoreline were advised to evacuate Monday as the nation’s largest wildfire affected the resort area across California and Nevada, the Associated Press reported.
Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe took the warning to heart and evacuated 36 patients with skilled nursing needs and 16 acute care on Sunday. The patients were sent to other facilities away from the fire, information officer Mindi Befu said.
The medical facility evacuated the rest of its patients and staff on Monday in accordance with safety recommendations.
See below for more Associated Press coverage.
The new orders for people to evacuate immediately include part of the tourist town of South Lake Tahoe and about 15 miles (15 miles) along the western shore of the lake. It comes a day after communities were abruptly evacuated several miles south of the lake as the Caldor fire raged nearby.
The region is facing a National Weather Service warning about critical firefighters Monday through Tuesday in the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Range.
The fire destroyed several homes along Highway 50, one of the main routes to the south side of the lake, on Sunday. The fire also swept through the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski area, destroying some buildings but leaving the main buildings at the base intact.
“Today has been a tough day, and there’s nothing wrong with it,” Jeff Marsolais, ranger for El Dorado National Forest, said Sunday. A few days ago, he’d thought crews could halt the Caldor Fire’s eastward progress, but “it let go.”
Flames swirled through mountains just a few miles southwest of the Tahoe Basin, where thick smoke was packing tourists at a time when summer vacations were normally in full swing for the Labor Day weekend.
“To put it in perspective, we’ve seen about half a mile of movement every day in the perimeter of the fire for the past few weeks, and today this has already moved 2.5 miles on us, with no sign that it’s started to slow down. said Erich Schwab, division chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The Caldor Fire has scorched nearly 277 square miles (717 square kilometers) since it broke out on August 14. After the violent fires over the weekend, containment dropped from 19 percent to 14 percent. More than 600 buildings have been destroyed and at least 20,000 more were threatened.
It is one of nearly 90 major fires in the US. Many in the West, burning trees and shrubs have been sucked dry by drought. Climate change has made the region warmer and drier over the past 30 years, and scientists say it will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more destructive.
In California alone, more than a dozen major fires are being fought by more than 15,200 firefighters. Flames have destroyed about 2,000 buildings this year and forced thousands to evacuate, while shrouded in unhealthy smoke over large parts of the West.
In Southern California, part of Interstate 15 was closed Sunday after winds pushed a new fire, the Railroad Fire, across lanes in Cajon Pass northeast of Los Angeles.
Further south, there were evacuation orders and warnings for remote communities after a wildfire ignited Saturday and quickly spread through the Cleveland National Forest. A firefighter suffered minor injuries and two buildings were destroyed in the 3.5-square-mile Chaparral Fire along the border of San Diego and Riverside counties, according to Cal Fire. It was 13 percent in on Monday.
Meanwhile, California’s Dixie Fire, the second largest in state history at 3,121 square miles, was nearly halfway down about 65 miles north of the Lake Tahoe fire. Nearly 700 homes were among the nearly 1,300 buildings destroyed since the Dixie Fire began in early July.
The containment increased to 26 percent of the French fire, which covered nearly 40 square miles (104 square kilometers) in the southern Sierra Nevada. Crews protected forest homes on the west side of Lake Isabella, a popular recreation area northeast of Bakersfield.
The U.S. Department of Defense is sending 200 soldiers from Washington state to assist firefighters in Northern California, the U.S. military said in a statement Saturday. Eight Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130 planes capable of dropping thousands of gallons of fire retardant have also been sent to fight wildfires in the West.