Ignorance Is Bliss… Caldor Fire In Tahoe Forces Us To Evacuate

An orange sun on Echo Lake on day Caldor Fire started - Photo by: Local Freshies®

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Living in the mountains provides a lot of good things. A massive playground to make you feel like a kid again. From skiing to mountain biking and even hiking, the list of things to do is almost endless. At the same time, it plays host to a lot of dangers such as avalanches. One that we always thought was an exception to “us” was wildfires. I mean… how could there be a fire in Tahoe?

How Ignorance Came To Be

Splitboarder looking over Lake Tahoe backcountry snowboarding
Photo by: Local Freshies®

Every time I’ve personally seen forest fires, they happen in remote places. Not a place that has 24/7 nightlife. A town where the population can swell to 100,000 people on a given day. There’s just too much money to be made here. How could a natural disaster such as a fire in Tahoe happen? I mean, it’s Lake Tahoe!

Hope Is A Dangerous Elixir

Closing Day at Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort Lake Tahoe
Closing day at Sierra at Tahoe on April 15th 2018 was the BEST day of the season.

When the Caldor fire exploded in the Western Sierra Nevada, there was a little bit of concern but not a lot. Maybe the fire would travel to a place we backcountry ski but not a resort like Sierra-At-Tahoe. Not OUR home. As we watched each day twice daily the CalFire reports, it slowly inched towards us. We wouldn’t be evacuated, would we?

Hope For The Best, Plan For The Worst

With that being said, we still are conservative in how we think. Even IF there wasn’t a fire in Tahoe, we decided to prep our home. To do things like remove all the dead plants on our property. To get all the pine needles off our roof. And move all wood away from our structures. And while we were prepared this couldn’t happen, could it?

Jedi Master Guides

Caldor fire in Tahoe
Smoke from the Caldor Fire – Photo by: Local Freshies®

On Sunday, our good friend and backcountry mentor gave us a call. For anyone that knows Richard Bothwell from Outdoor Adventure Club, he’s like a Jedi Master in the outdoor world. He doesn’t TELL you the answer but guides you. After some small talk, he asked us “So, what’s your plan?”

A Rude Awakening

We gave him the download that we planned to call Jaime’s dad to pick up stuff IF we went into warning. He quietly listened and gave us a “love sandwich.” That we’re doing the right things but showed us facts on how the fire was exploding that day. “So, do you think you should wait?”

I knew the answer. I didn’t like it, but I knew what we should do. To begin moving ALL of our stuff down to Jaime’s parents’ house. We dropped everything we were doing that day and began picking the things we wanted to take. We loaded up both vehicles to the brim and jumped on to watch the evening call.

The News Get Worse

nluv finish and design studio breakdown
Breaking down the studio – Photo by: Local Freshies®

The call was heart wrenching. The eastern side of the fire which was heading towards Tahoe had accelerated. Instead of small increments, the monster had reared its ugly head. Homes were being lost in a town next to Sierra-At-Tahoe. The videos of the fire overlooking the pass were horrific.

No Longer A Drill

We quickly drove down and dropped off our 1st load of items. We looked at the news coverage and social media again. The fire continued to gain speed and sprinting its way to Tahoe. Certain segments of Tahoe that weren’t even under warning, were now under mandatory evacuation orders. My stomach dropped. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

A Guy, A Girl, And A Big Ole Trailer

As we finally got back to our house, we started deconstructing Jaime’s nluv Finish & Design Studio. Packed a bunch of clothes. Loaded up any keepsakes we wanted to take. As we continued loading the vehicles, the clock begins to tick past midnight.

Beyond Exhaustion

We were exhausted. As we continued loading the vehicles, we decided to just get everything dialed in and leave first thing in the morning. At around 2 am, the sights and sounds of the South Lake Tahoe police department echoed across the trees. At first I thought it was a Muslim call to prayer, as it bounced off the surrounding landscape.

A Fire Was Becoming A Reality

Caldor fire evacuation
Was This The Last Time We’d See Our Home? Photo by: Local Freshies®

As the squad cars got closer, we heard it more clearly, “Citizen of South Lake Tahoe this is your warning that this a voluntary evacuation order. Be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.” It was like a horror movie about the apocalypse. We then saw an infrared image from our friend. Just a few miles down the road at the summit the FLAMES from the fire could be seen from Tahoe. A fire in Tahoe SEEMED like a reality.

Adrenaline kicked in. Did we want to sleep a few hours and THEN leave? Hell no! This was actually happening. As we packed up the trucks with all our last gear, we looked at the house. Was this the last time we’d ever see it?

Thankful

It suddenly reminded me of the stories from my parents and grandparents being forced to leave their own country. I now had an idea of what it must’ve felt like for them to leave. As we sit in Carson City with family, we think about all the evacuees of the Caldor fire and wish them all the best in this trying time.  

We can’t say thank you enough for all those men and women on the front lines fighting not just this fire in Tahoe but across the country. They deserve our adoration and gratitude.

10 thoughts on “Ignorance Is Bliss… Caldor Fire In Tahoe Forces Us To Evacuate

  1. I pray for you brother.i remember looking at that home a few years ago when I was looking at real estate in the area.a little old lady with white hair was working in the yard planting flowers next to the driveway with a very beautiful green lawn.it was on pinther or Pinterest st or something like that.life has its risks like biking or skiing or even a simple drive,but it’s worth the risk.even if the worst happens you will rebuild better then it is now and go on to live in one of best places on earth with the best lifestyle you can have.i envy you,keep the faith ,you will be ok. Rayplasch,discovery bay ca.

    1. Hey Ray,

      Thanks for the positive words. This entire experience made me realize how lucky we are to have the opportunity we have with this house. It isn’t just a house but our home. Our studio for Jaime’s business. A place for friends to lay their head down when they are working in avalanche training on the south shore. 🙂

  2. This has been a heartbreaking time for everyone. Watching the way you both work together like a well oiled machine makes me very proud. Seeing the smoke from our home in Washoe Valley makes your heart wrenching words a reality. God Bless the firefighters working so tirelessly to save strangers homes…homes to both humans and Gods creatures large and small…and Blessings to you LocalFreshies for your personal experience during this trying time.

  3. Thank you for sharing the mentoring and the plans. You gave us an inside view of something we now understand better. You made it much more pwrsonal for all of us. God bless the firefighters and first responders—our hearts and gratitude go out to them.

  4. Even though I’m an expat with a sister in law with a beautiful home on the road to Echo Lake. I have spent 5 decades hiking, boating, dinner in South Lake Tahoe, hanging with my family. My heart is broken.

    1. Hey Robin,

      Like any heartbreak… it will take time to heal. From an environment perspective this fire will help clean out a lot of the dead debris that’s out there… including one of our favorite backcountry zones: Trimmer Peak. At least that’s what I’m hoping for and trying my best to look at this disaster as a glass half full scenario.

  5. Praying for y’all. Breaks my heart but I’m so glad y’all are OK. Y’all are what make any house your home, and I trust you’ll appreciate your true treasure even more going thru something like this.

  6. Such a well written piece. Takes those not in the know and lays out the emotions. Gus tho was really hoping for a cover shot! So very glad you all are safe and heeded all your instincts.

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