How the Caldor Fire Has Affected Tahoe So Far
A dispatch from the Caldor fire, which is threatening large swaths of this tourist destination and has forced thousands to evacuate.,
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Sometimes you can’t help but reach for a cliche: South Lake Tahoe on Monday evening was the calm before the storm. After a frenzied mandatory evacuation that forced thousands to flee, the town went eerily still.
Everything was closed. Supermarket parking lots were empty; restaurants and motels were deserted. A man evacuating by bicycle, clothing piled high behind his seat, pedaled past. The roads felt wider without any traffic.
On the last days of August, Lake Tahoe would normally be thick with tourists paddleboarding, fishing, lounging, drinking and hiking.
“You’ll never see South Lake Tahoe like this again,” a resident told me before closing his car door and driving down an empty road toward Nevada.
The mandatory evacuation zone created by the fast-moving Caldor fire extended from Tahoma, Calif., on the western shore of the lake, to the Nevada border as of Monday evening.
And yet a 10-minute drive away there was urgency in the air as hundreds of firefighters fought to save Lake Tahoe. The Caldor fire, which ignited two weeks ago, crested a ridge on Monday and, propelled by strong winds, began descending into the well-populated Tahoe basin.
The fire was 15 percent contained on Monday, although that number hardly seemed to matter as the fire bore down on South Lake Tahoe.
Less than a dozen miles from the lakeshore, inmate fire crews bounded down mountainsides to put out spot fires. The switchbacks leading to Echo Summit, the 7,482-foot pass that leads to the Gold Rush towns along the American River, were covered with the yellow-jacketed men and women of Cal Fire. They squinted up at the mountain and the fire descending it.
I drove between these two places on Monday evening, between the quiet town and fiery hillside, and I had trouble processing the contrast.
It was almost as if South Lake Tahoe was taking a deep breath on Monday night, steeling itself for a battle with the fire that seemed determined to knock at its gates.
Until Monday, the Caldor fire had burned up and down remote Sierra hillsides, brushing past tiny Gold Rush hamlets. More than 480 homes have been destroyed in the fire’s path, many of them vacation cabins.
But what comes next for the Caldor fire is a terrifying prospect of an entirely different magnitude. With the fire now in the Tahoe Basin, Cal Fire estimates that 33,679 homes are threatened.
After a strangely beautiful sunset on Monday, a family of ducks floated past an empty white-sand beach in South Lake Tahoe. They seemed oblivious as the air became heavy with smoke — and a town awaited its fate.
In case you missed it, we wrote last week about how many people fleeing their homes in Tahoe moved there recently to escape the pandemic.
Worried about the smoky air? Here’s a guide to interpreting the air quality index with tips to stay safe.
Wildfire terms can be confusing. This is what it means when a fire is 30 percent contained.
Thomas Fuller is the San Francisco bureau chief for The New York Times.
The rest of the news
Theranos trial: Jury selection will begin on Tuesday in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, who is battling 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud over false claims she made about her blood-testing start-up Theranos. The trial is being held in federal court in San Jose.
Greener buildings: This month, state regulators updated California’s building code to require new homes and commercial buildings to have solar panels and batteries, one of the most sweeping environmental updates to building codes ever attempted by a government agency.
But some experts worry these new requirements will drive up the state’s already high construction costs and put new homes out of reach of middle- and lower-income families. Read more from The Times.
What you get: See what $2 million homes look like in Los Angeles, Berkeley and Boonville.
Tyler Skaggs: Here’s what you need to know about the death of the Los Angeles Angels pitcher, who died in 2019. The trial for Eric Kay, a former Angels employee accused of supplying Skaggs with drugs that killed him, will begin in October.
Recall election: The Times reporter Shawn Hubler discussed the upcoming recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday’s episode of “The Daily.” Listen here.
Forests closed: The U.S. Forest Service is closing 20 million acres of California’s national forests to public access for two weeks beginning on Tuesday because of extreme fire conditions and strained firefighting resources, according to The Sacramento Bee.
San Diego families: Six families from the suburb of El Cajon have made it safely out of Afghanistan after they went to the country this summer to visit relatives and got stuck, officials said on Monday. The whereabouts of two other El Cajon families remains unclear, The Associated Press reports.
Californians on Afghanistan: In a Southern California congressional district where Democrats narrowly outnumber Republicans, voters interviewed over the weekend were largely united on at least one issue: After a two-decade war, President Biden was right to pull American troops out of Afghanistan.
First day back: San Diego Unified welcomed tens of thousands of students on Monday for the first day of school, marking the first time the district has been open for full-time in-person learning since the pandemic began, writes The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Student refunds: When a community college system in Central California decided on Monday to mandate the Covid-19 vaccines at all campuses, it did so one day after the drop date, meaning students could no longer get a full refund if they chose to drop out of school to avoid immunization, reports The Fresno Bee.
Covid surge: The San Joaquin Valley has crossed more than a quarter-million Covid-19 cases since the first patients in the region were infected 18 months ago, according to The Fresno Bee.
Students stranded: At least 24 Sacramento-area students are confirmed to be stranded in Afghanistan as turmoil continues in Kabul. The office of Ami Bera, a Sacramento congressman, contacted San Juan Unified and is working with the district to bring students back safely, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Gun violence: In an attempt to reduce crime rates, San Francisco will start a pilot program in October to pay $300 a month to people who the authorities believe are most at risk of shooting someone, reports The San Francisco Examiner.
Vaccination mandate: West Contra Costa Unified, which serves more than 28,000 students in the East Bay, is considering requiring that all eligible children in the district get vaccinated against Covid-19, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
Sutter Health: The Sacramento-based health care giant has settled for $90 million over charges of knowingly inflating Medicare costs and violating the False Claims Act, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
What we’re eating
This dish — well-seasoned scrambled eggs combined with a sweet-tart ginger-tomato sauce — is home-style Chinese food at its simplest and, arguably, tastiest.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s travel tip comes from Elizabeth Schenk, who recommends Sonoma County’s Sea Ranch, “one of her favorite places on earth.”
The Times wrote about Sea Ranch, California’s modernist utopia, a few years back.
Your recall questions answered
Can I write in a replacement candidate?
You can, but if it’s Gavin Newsom, it won’t count. California law prohibits the incumbent from being listed in a recall as a replacement candidate.
Your write-in vote also will not count unless your preferred write-in candidate is on the state’s certified list of write-in candidates.
Read answers to more of your frequently asked questions about the California recall election.
Tell us what else you want to know about the recall. Email your questions to CAtoday@nytimes.com.
And before you go, some good news
A World War II veteran celebrating his 96th birthday in Torrance on Saturday was surprised by a visit from all five of his children.
“It’s just so wonderful,” the nonagenarian, David Botelho, told The Los Angeles Daily News. “It’s so rare I get to see them all together.”
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow in your inbox tomorrow.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Big industry in San Francisco (4 letters).
Soumya Karlamangla, Briana Scalia and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.