The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) announced the mandatory evacuation of 30,000 El Dorado County residents and tourists on Monday, including the entire 22,000 person city of South Lake Tahoe, due to the rapid encroachment of the Caldor Fire.
Caldor Fire Evacuation Order for 8/30/21 at 11:00 a.m. pic.twitter.com/g1WxBKeWds
— CAL FIRE AEU (@CALFIREAEU) August 30, 2021
The Caldor Fire began on August 14th in central El Dorado County, which remains under investigation. After a few days of remaining relatively small, high winds caused the wildfire to pick up and spread Eastward throughout the county. Evacuations of some towns began on the 17th, with Governor Gavin Newsom ordering a state of emergency in the county later that day. While the town of Grizzly Flats was initially damaged with around 650 buildings destroyed and two residents injured, the fires throughout the rest of the month remained lower profile than other fires due to the remote location.
However, the Caldor Fire once again threatened urban areas during the weekend following high winds causing containment to fall from 19% to 14%. As the wildfire began turning toward the resort area of South Lake Tahoe, evacuation orders were finally given on Monday.
According to CAL FIRE, the evacuation route out is along Highway 50 into Nevada due to the proximity of fires to the roads on the West side of the area. Evacuation shelters are also being set up in Truckee and in Gardnerville, Nevada.
The sudden removal of 30,000 people, as well as the possible ensuing fire damage, is expected to hurt the area, as well as the state, economically and politically.
The Caldor Fire and the economy, election
Both the Nevada and California sides of Lake Tahoe were severely hurt by the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions last year. Many resort areas this spring and summer were expecting tourism to help the area recover from last year and help normalize the economy of the region once again. Early figures have shown record tax income from the area and full hotels, signaling a strong recovery. However, the evacuation caused by the Caldor Fire in South Lake Tahoe, and possibly across state lines into Nevada should it remain un-contained, is once again dealing a blow to the tourist-heavy economy of the area.
“If it’s not one thing it’s another,” Janice Parker, a rental service employee now facing evacuation, told the Globe Monday. “We’re being pushed out now. It’s just a line of cars going straight out to the border. My rental company barely made it last year, and we were sold out all the time this year. Two extremes. When my boss saw the fire coming and then heard the evacuation order, all he said was “Of course it is. Why give us a break now?”. This is all so surreal.”
Politically, the evacuation of such a large part of GOP-leaning El Dorado County could cause some voting to be disrupted due to the wildfires, While only roughly 5,000- 10,000 registered voters are now displaced due to the evacuation, a race that is within a few percentage points like the recall election could feel the sting if in-person voting isn’t set up in time for residents or if mail-in ballots are not adequately given.
“It’s not the biggest concern, the biggest is saving human lives of course,” explained Charles Montoya, a phone bank monitor who has been coordinating a call and text drive to inform people to vote in Eastern California, to the Globe on Monday. “But this is a democracy, and, regardless of whom you vote for, you deserve a say. So if this evacuation possibly stops some people, that needs to be dealt with. Again, doesn’t matter whichever side they vote for. It’s the principle of it.”
CAL FIRE officials have yet to give a time frame on containment of the Caldor Fire. Evacuations of the area are expected to continue into Monday night.
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