As the winds returned this week, the Caldor Fire roared over the Sierra crest and bore down on the southern end of Lake Tahoe. Perhaps more than with other wildfires in the Western U.S., this one resonates the world over. Tahoe is an international destination, a glorious wedding backdrop, a sparkling jewel in John Muir’s Range of Light.
The postcard photos of Emerald Bay are as iconic as those of another famous California landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge.
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But Tahoe, and the granite ridges and forests and rivers around it, is more than that. To millions of Northern Californians, the region is as familiar as the backyard — less than two hours from the Sacramento metro area and its 2.3 million people and another hour (depending on traffic) from the San Francisco Bay Area.
In a typical summer, the wide path of destruction already cut by the Caldor Fire through the Eldorado National Forest would be filled with day hikers, backpackers, campers, kayakers and paddle boarders. Vacation cabins along the South Fork of the American River, many of which are now reduced to ash, would be filled with families from Sacramento, the Bay Area and beyond. Similar cabins that fill the woods on the outskirts of South Lake Tahoe await their fate amid the red flag warnings of the coming days.
Because the region means so much to so many, the Caldor Fire has captured the attention of Californians and others with a special connection to the region like no other in recent memory.
Here are four before and after images that show the level of destruction brought on by the Caldor fire in California:
Seen in a long camera exposure, the Caldor Fire burns as a chairlift sits motionless at the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort: