Lake Tahoe threatened by massive fire, more ordered to flee

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (Calif.) Fire officials ordered additional evacuations around Tahoe Basin because a two-week-old blaze threatened the mountain communities surrounding the glimmering Lake Tahoe.
After fire officials had for days stressed that the protection of the Tahoe Basin was their highest priority, residents in California were notified to leave the area by nightfall.

Jeff Marsoleis (forest supervisor for El Dorado National Forest) said Sunday evening that today was a difficult day. He thought that crews could stop the Caldor Fire from moving east a few days back, but it broke free today.

A few miles from the Tahoe Basin, flames were churning through mountains. Tourists were sent packing by thick smoke at a time when summer vacations are usually in full swing before the Labor Day weekend.

It's important to remember that we have been seeing approximately a half mile of movement around the fires perimeter every day over the past couple of weeks. Today, however, it has moved at 2.5 miles (4 km) on us. There is no sign that it is slowing down, stated Cal Fire Division Chief Erich Schwab.

The terrain in Northern California is so rugged, crews had to bring fire hoses from Highway 50 by hand to put out spot fires that were caused by erratic winds.

The forecast was not optimistic: triple-digit temperatures were possible, and extreme heat was anticipated to last for several days. Red flag warnings for fire danger were issued across the Northern Sierra on Monday and Tuesday.

After burning almost 245 square miles (635 km2), the blaze that erupted on August 14th was only 19% contained. This area is larger than Chicago. More than 600 structures were destroyed, and at least 18,000 more were in danger.

Caldor Fire proved so difficult to contain that firefighters pushed back the date for complete containment from this week's early hours to Sept. 8. Even that estimate was uncertain.

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After winds caused a new fire, the Railroad Fire, to spread across Interstate 15 in Southern California, Sunday afternoon, the section was closed.

After a wildfire broke out in the Cleveland National Forest, warnings and evacuation orders were still in effect for remote communities. A firefighter received minor injuries and two structures were destroyed in the 2.3-square-mile (5.9-square-kilometer) Chaparral Fire burning along the border of San Diego and Riverside counties, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was contained to 10% on Sunday.

Californias Dixie Fire was contained to 48% in the Sierra-Cascades region, 65 miles (105 km) north of Caldor Fire. It is the second-largest state-wide fire at 1,193 sq miles (3,089 sq kilometers). Nearly 700 homes were among the nearly 1,300 destroyed buildings since the fire started in early July.

The 12-day-old French Fire covered 38 miles (98 km) of the southern Sierra Nevada. Containment rose to 22%. Crews secured the West Side of Lake Isabella, which is a popular recreation area north of Bakersfield.

California has more than 15200 firefighters fighting large fires. Around 2,000 structures were destroyed by flames, forcing thousands of people to evacuate. Large swathes of the West were also blanketed in toxic smoke.

California fires are one of nearly 90 large blazes across the U.S. Many of them are burning brush and trees that have been left to die from drought in the West. According to scientists, climate change has made the region more hot and dryer over the past 30 years. It will continue to make wildfires more destructive and the weather more extreme.

According to the U.S. Army North, 200 U.S. Army soldiers will be sent from Washington and other equipment, including eight U.S. Air Force C-130 planes. This is in aid of firefighters in Northern California. C-130s can now be converted into air tankers capable of pouring thousands of gallons water on the flames.