This is what climate change looks like. It’s overlapping crises. People try to escape one crisis and stumble into another one. — Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Nature Conservancy
This is what climate change looks like. It’s overlapping crises. People try to escape one crisis and stumble into another one. — Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Nature Conservancy
Smoke From Caldor Fire Suffocates Lake Tahoe
When the pandemic swept through California last year, Lake Tahoe, the azure gem of the Sierra Nevada, swarmed with city dwellers fleeing to the purity of its alpine air.

Now the stampede has reversed. With a fast-expanding wildfire roaring just one ridge away from the Tahoe basin, residents were in flight this week from smoke so toxic and thick that it spiked past the highest levels on air quality charts.

... The Caldor fire, which has chewed through an area larger than Denver since it started more than 70 miles southwest of Lake Tahoe on Aug. 14, is now a dozen miles south of the lake. The fire was only 12 percent contained on Thursday, when authorities ordered evacuations at the edge of the Tahoe basin.

Amid the exodus, which has become a way of life in parts of the West this disaster-filled summer, there has been a creeping concern that the notion of a safe haven is gone, that there soon will be nowhere to run. Everyone from Bay Area billionaires who bought homes along the shores of the lake to workers stunned by surging real estate prices is seeing a sanctuary suffocate.

The smoke and the wildfires that produce it in the West are coming in a time of drought, heat waves, power cuts and, of course, the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is what climate change looks like,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Nature Conservancy. “It’s overlapping crises. People try to escape one crisis and stumble into another one.”


With California halfway through its peak fire season, the Caldor fire is only one of about 100 large wildfires burning in the West. The Dixie fire, the second-largest in California history, started more than six weeks ago and now has a perimeter of more than 500 miles. On Wednesday alone, four large new wildfires spread in California, drawing increasingly scarce firefighting resources.

The crisis in Tahoe extends far beyond the smoke on the water and fire in the sky of one tourist attraction. For hundreds of thousands of people living over the mountain from the lake, in the high desert of Nevada, wildfire smoke this summer has closed schools, canceled sports events and led longtime residents to ask how much longer they can hold out.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/27/us/lake-tahoe-wildfire-smoke-covid.html