After mass evacuation, California fire engulfs Lake Tahoe

After an intense wildfire destroyed a resort town at the southern tip Lake Tahoe, a large firefighting force prepared for strong winds Tuesday. Residents in neighboring Nevada were warned to evacuate.

After mass evacuation, California fire engulfs Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a city that bustles with summer tourists. But it was strangely empty. The air was thickened with smoke from Caldor Fire, which was one of the two main blazes in California. After being told to leave, around 22,000 people clogged the main street for hours, consuming drought-stricken plants.

Officials from the city said that only a few people resisted the order. However, Tuesday was a day of concern for most people about the next steps in the fire.

It's just a pain waiting. Russ Crupi said, "I mean, I know that it's close down this way." Russ Crupi gestured south from the Heavenly Valley Estates mobile park where he and his wife make a living. He had set up sprinklers and tractors in the area.

"I am worried about what will be there when people return." He said that people want to return to their homes and that is what he would do.

The strong winds pushed the Caldor Fire down the slopes of the Tahoe Basin, igniting mountain homes and destroying two major highways. A few minutes after darkness fell Monday night, more firefighters arrived to help protect the homes of the Christmas Valley area, which is about 10 miles (16 km) from South Lake Tahoe.

Last week, thick smoke made it impossible to conduct air firefighting operations. Dominic Polito, a firefighter, said that since then nearly twenty-three helicopters and three aircraft tankers have poured thousands of gallons water and retardant onto the fire.

The National Weather Service warned that there would be severe fire weather conditions Wednesday through Thursday due to high winds, low humidity and very dry fuel.

The Lake Tahoe area is usually a year-round recreational paradise offering beaches, water sports, hiking, ski resorts and golfing. While South Lake Tahoe is bustling with outdoor activities, Nevada tourists can gamble at the major casinos just across Stateline.

On Tuesday, however, only a handful of tourists were still present at the Montbleu Resort Casino and Spa's casino floor. According to the state board controlling gaming, casino regulators are monitoring the operations of the four biggest gambling properties in the city.

Hotels house evacuees, firefighters and other emergency personnel. Harrah's, Harveys Tahoe Casino, Montbleu Resort and Hard Rock all have over 2,200 hotel rooms.

Nevada Gov. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak encouraged residents to be ready, stating that there wasn't a timetable for when evacuations might need to be ordered. He noted that ash was falling upon him even though the fire was only 20 miles away (32 km).

"I'm standing right now and I'm getting all the ash particulates on me jacket, even," said the governor. "This is serious folks."

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