As the Caldor Fire bears down on Lake Tahoe, experts warn that an "urban conflagration" could see the popular resort area around the lake gutted. Old homes and log cabins with wood porches and roofs are common in the neighborhoods around Lake Tahoe, which straddles the California-Nevada border, as are piles of pine cones and pine needles. "You’ve got this potential for it to really start jumping from building to building to building," one fire scientist tells the Los Angeles Times. Residents of South Lake Tahoe were ordered to evacuate Monday and strong winds predicted through Tuesday night could send spot fires more than a mile ahead of the main fire.
If embers land in the valley and start a new fire, things could quickly get out of control, experts say. On Monday night, the fire pushed over Echo Summit and came into the Lake Tahoe Basin, CBS Bay Area reports. The Mercury News says the fire, the biggest in the area in at least a century, is a "nightmare scenario that firefighters have worried about for years." Spot fires from embers that blow over the ridge would be burning forested areas that haven't burned in generations. The evacuation order led to a miles-long traffic jam on the main road out of the Lake Tahoe Basin, reports Capital Public Radio, which has an extensive look at evacuation orders and road closures.
The Caldor Fire as well as the Dixie Fire, also still burning in Northern California, are the first two to span the Sierra Nevada mountain range from east to west. "We haven’t had fires burn from one side of the Sierra to the other,” the head of Cal Fire says, per the Tahoe Daily Tribune. "We did with Dixie, and now we do with the Caldor—we need to be cognizant that there is fire activity happening (here) that we have never seen before." (Read more California wildfires stories.)