Thousands Flee Lake Tahoe Blaze That Fire Officials Blame on Climate Crisis: 'Trying Times'

The Caldor fire has forced thousands of residents to flee their homes as the blaze spreads through Northern California

Northern California Fire Forces Evacuations In Lake Tahoe
Photo: David Odisho/Bloomberg via Getty

In just over two weeks, the Caldor Fire has burned through 191,600 acres in Northern California, and fire officials are pointing to climate change as the culprit.

On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for three counties surrounding Lake Tahoe, the popular tourist area whose residents were placed under a mandatory evacuation the same day. Photos from the evacuation showed heavy traffic along long stretches of roads.

"It was a tense few moments I think for our citizens in South Lake Tahoe today," South Lake Tahoe Police Chief David Stevenson said, according to SF Gate. "Three and a half hours of being stuck on Highway 50. I'm so appreciative that our citizens listened to the warning and the order and evacuated the city. Their response was fantastic, and we appreciate them. I'm glad to know they are safe."

The blaze, which is only 16 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, is expected to cross into Nevada "in the coming days," prompting the state's governor, Steve Sisolak, to declare a state of emergency this week.

"Today, I declared a state of emergency in Nevada in response to the ongoing Caldor Fire," Gov. Sisolak wrote in a tweet. "Thank you to our brave first responders, local government agencies, and nonprofit entities who continue to go above and beyond to assist our communities during these trying times."

Officials from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, said they had no doubts climate change has made the Caldor fire worse for firefighters.

"Historically, we've used the terms such as anomaly, unprecedented, or extreme to describe the wildfires that we have seen burn throughout the state over the past 10 to 20 years," Cal Fire's Chris Anthony said during a press briefing, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Northern California Fire Forces Evacuations In Lake Tahoe
Brontë Wittpenn/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty

"These terms are no longer appropriate given the clear trends associated with drought, a changing climate, and unresilient forest stands," he added. "Unfortunately, these factors contribute to the resistance to control that we're seeing with the Caldor fire."

Another Cal Fire official admitted the blaze has become "a real tough one" and has taken a toll on firefighters.

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"People are tired but they're committed," Captain Keith Wade with the Sacramento Fire Department told KCRA.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced every national forest in California will be closed through Sept. 17 due to the risk of wildfires.

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