Firefighters Push to Divert Blaze From Lake Tahoe as Winds Fade
(Bloomberg) -- Firefighters managed to keep a raging wildfire away from South Lake Tahoe overnight and were hopeful that calmer winds will help the effort to protect the alpine resort town.
More favorable weather on Thursday and Friday should allow firefighters to gain a better control over the eastern edge of the fire as it heads to the California border with Nevada, California officials said
“We lost the winds aloft,” National Weather Service forecaster Jim Dudley said during an operational briefing Thursday morning. “It’s a good day today to not have gusty winds up on the ridges.”
The Caldor Fire, which erupted Aug. 14 in the hills east of Sacramento, has burned more than 210,000 acres, injured five and destroyed 811 structures. The blaze has been menacing the clear-blue lake that straddles California and Nevada and typically attracts crowds over the summer for its beaches, hiking trails and casinos. Officials ordered the roughly 22,000 residents of South Lake Tahoe to leave earlier this week as the fire moved into the lake basin.
Crews have steered the Caldor Fire around the more densely populated areas at the southern tip of the lake after high winds pushed the blaze over a nearby mountain ridge.
Still, officials said it was too early to let their guard down as some gusty winds were still possible and the forests remained very dry.
Nearby ski resorts have been forced to turn their snow-making equipment into fire-fighting tools, spraying their slopes and lifts with water from cannons.
Even if the fire doesn’t reach the lake, it has already dealt a blow to the Tahoe region.
Tourism accounts for 62% of the local economy’s $5.1 billion annual revenue, according to the Tahoe Prosperity Center, a non-profit economic development organization. And while the lake draws visitors year-round, including skiers flocking to the Heavenly ski resort in winter, its busiest season is summer, said Heidi Hill Drum, the center’s executive director. South Lake Tahoe beaches, hotels and restaurants will now be deserted for the Labor Day weekend, as firefighters struggle to save the town.
If they succeed and the town reopens in a few weeks, the loss of Labor Day revenue will hurt but not kill local businesses, Drum said.
“You open up the highways, you get the ski resorts open, you get a nice winter, you’ll see people coming back,” she said.
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