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Efforts Continue To Protect South Lake Tahoe From Devastating Wildfire


The Caldor Fire in Northern California continues to rage as crews work to keep it from the densely populated city of South Lake Tahoe. It's now grown to over 190,000 acres and remains only 18% contained. Scott Rodd is a reporter with Capital Public Radio. Scott, whereabouts are you now? What are you seeing?

SCOTT RODD, BYLINE: I'm in Douglas County right now, which is just over the border into Nevada. It's about 10, 15 miles from where the fire is burning. I'd actually originally booked a room right next to Lake Tahoe in California, but an evacuation order came down just as I was heading there on Monday, so I had to scramble to find a new hotel. And to illustrate just how fast this fire is spreading, the evacuation warnings are now on my doorstep in Nevada in the new hotel. And so the area around me is very smoky, both in Nevada and certainly in California as well. There's ash falling like little gray snowflakes. And at night, parts of the Tahoe Basin are glowing orange from the fire.

MARTÍNEZ: Where is the fire currently spreading?

RODD: So it's actually expanding on multiple sides, and that's part of really what's vexing fire crews right now. But the biggest concern and where the most resources are concentrated is the fire front that's moving east and threatening South Lake Tahoe. And again, this is the most densely populated town in the area. And fortunately, the fire right now appears to be skirting just south of the town toward Nevada.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, I know forecasters predicted dangerous weather conditions through today. How has that impacted the fire?

RODD: So the forecast warned of gusting winds, high temperatures and low humidity from Monday through today. And at times, that did come to fruition. Yesterday was, fortunately though, much more moderate than expected. However, this fire has still been very troublesome to get a hold of. Here's Erich Schwab - he's an assistant fire chief with CAL FIRE - explaining at a briefing last night how these conditions have really put fire crews on the defensive.


ERICH SCHWAB: We can't control it. It's just - we don't have any tools out there to stop the fire, so we result to herding the fire away from structures and away from people. And that's what we're actively doing.

RODD: And fortunately, the weather is supposed to be more cooperative later in the week, and hopefully that gives crews a shot at improving containment.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, Scott, last year was a record-setting year for wildfires in California. I live in California. It feels, to me - this is just me taking a guess here - that it's as bad as last year, if not worse. How does this year compare so far?

RODD: Your instinct is pretty spot on. You know, last year we had a record 4.3 million acres burn in California, and this year is slightly outpacing where we were at the same time last year. And we still have a long ways to go in the fire season. You know, fire season typically peaks in September and into October, so we still have a ways to go. And, you know, the two main culprits behind these major fire seasons we've been having are climate change, which has been exacerbating the drought we're experiencing, and also a lack of forest management, which has allowed fuels and undergrowth to really build up throughout the forests.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's Scott Rodd of Capital Public Radio. Scott, stay safe. Thanks for joining us this morning.

RODD: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLEEP DEALER'S "THE WAY HOME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Rodd