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Special Feature 

Snow guns, animal rescue, pizza parties and trail crews counter flames fire fighting the Caldor Fire  

By Paul Andrew 
Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

On August 14, the Caldor Fire started just south of Pollack Pines and began raging out of control. Due to high winds, it expanded to over 30,000 acres in three days and was surging up the mountain toward Lake Tahoe.  

With the blaze at zero percent contained, the concern was that the long-time ski area would be destroyed.

Fire fighting the Caldor Fire

In its path lies Sierra at Tahoe, the ultra-popular ski and snowboard resort that has produced numerous Olympians. With the blaze at zero percent contained, the concern was that the long-time ski area would be destroyed.

The resort’s snow guns are generally unused in the summer season. As soon as the temperatures drop below freezing, these high-powered cannons shoot layers of valuable snow to the many ski and snowboard runs at their resort. With increasingly dryer years in the High Sierra, making snow is required to ensure a long and successful ski season.  

Please send your prayers for protection for all fire personnel as they continue the battle to protect our playground,” wrote Sierra at Tahoe. Surrounded by intense flames, the firefighters and resort staff, using their multitude of snowmaking guns, were able to save structures and ski lifts on their mountain fire fighting the Caldor Fire. 

Further up the destructive path in South Lake sits Heavenly Mountain Resort, one of the five largest ski and snowboard areas in North America. The blaze eclipsed Echo Summit and was heading east parallel to Pioneer Trail, straight toward Heavenly.

When the fire entered the Lake Tahoe Basin, our team stepped up positioning snowmaking guns all over the mountain to help protect the resort’s boundaries from the fire’s path,” stated Susan Whitman, senior manager, communications and resort marketing for Heavenly Mountain Resort.  

Today, tomorrow, and this winter as we take our first turns, we share our gratitude with the team that produces snow in the winter and bravely protected our cherished mountain community this summer,” said Susan. “We are honored and grateful they are part of the Heavenly family.”  

The ones who suffer most are the small animals who climb up trees to escape danger, like squirrels. They become trapped with nowhere to go,” says Denise Upton of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.

 

What about the animals?

Most humans have property insurance, friends and relatives to stay with during evacuations, the means to escape danger, then return when conditions are safe again. It’s another story for wildlife that call forests their homes.   

The ones who suffer most are the small animals who climb up trees to escape danger, like squirrels. They become trapped with nowhere to go,” says Denise Upton of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.

“We had to rescue three porcupines, who are generally slow runners, walk funny, and were unable to outrun the fire.” (Who knew there were porcupines in Tahoe?) 

The black bears are able to flee to other forests. However, many of them took advantage of human evacuations, and resided in well-stocked cabins for the week,” Upton reports.

“One homeowner returned to find the water running in the bathroom, which ruined her floor, and made her house uninhabitable.

The bear may have been bathing her cubs and forgot to turn off the water. Predators, such as hawks, may be unable to find food after a fire, which could cause them to perish.” 

Lake Tahoe Aleworx, and others, donate to Caldor victims 

Local business owners, along with many other community leaders, began looking for ways to lend their support to the area, its residents and first responders who were fire fighting the Caldor Fire.

Residents had the opportunity to express their appreciation for the fire fighting efforts and make donations to the Barton Foundation Emergency Response Fund, assisting locals experiencing economic hardships.

On September 19, The Caldor Community Festival was formed, with the event on the patio bar at Lake Tahoe AleWorX, who donated pizza and beer for firefighters.

It felt like the whole town was here,” said Kalina Potts, supervisor at Lake Tahoe Aleworx. “We raised about $65,000! Everybody came together.” 

Residents had the opportunity to express their appreciation for the fire fighting efforts and make donations to the Barton Foundation Emergency Response Fund, assisting locals experiencing economic hardships. Food and drink items were also donated by Tahoe’s Overland Meat & Seafood Company and Tahoe Blue Vodka

Volunteers are desperately needed to help rebuild the trails. For information on how you can help, either by volunteering or financial donations visit tamba.org. 

Rebuilding trails, replanting forests 

Another of the many challenges facing the community following the Caldor Fire is the reconstruction of the many area trails.

With hiking and biking increasing in popularity every year, local revenue is dependent on the many visitors who travel to experience the unique Tahoe trails. 

Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association has been proactive since the fire began to set a plan in motion making sure local trails are accessible and trekked upon as quickly as possible.   

Once the burn scar area is deemed safe to enter, TAMBA staff and crew leaders will work with the U.S. Forest Service to inspect the damaged trails to identify what the priorities will be for this fall and next summer,” a TAMBA representative states.

“We continue to be in communication with the [U.S.] Forest Service and will look for opportunities to re-open some of the closed areas as dozer line rehabilitation work is completed.” 

Volunteers are desperately needed to help rebuild the trails. For information on how you can help, either by volunteering or financial donations visit Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association.  

Photo by Manny Becerra on Unsplash

With a quarter of a million acres burned by the Caldor Fire, and countless decades-old evergreen trees destroyed, our beautiful forest will never look the same in our lifetimes. Cleaning up and replanting trees is a monumental task after fire fighting the Caldor Fire. 

Our heartfelt thanks go out to all those who helped save this amazing place and the countless visitors who will enjoy the effort in the future. 

One group that has worked for years in reforesting the burn areas is the Sugar Pine FoundationThe organization is currently looking for people to collect and deliver Jeffrey Pine, Incense Cedar, and Sugar Pine seeds. Volunteers will also be needed to help with future planting projects.   

The next time you take a walk in the alpine woods, take a moment to think of all those heroes on the front lines and behind the scenes, who worked tirelessly to help save as much of our beautiful forest as possible. 

During a disaster, the generosity of a community is often realized and Lake Tahoe proved this as the town continues to overcome the destruction.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to all those who helped save this amazing place and the countless visitors who will enjoy the effort in the future.