Caldor Fire: South Lake Tahoe 'a ghost town' as residents, tourists brace to evacuate

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (KGO) -- Air quality around South Lake Tahoe is deteriorating as the Caldor Fire is moving closer - leaving residents and tourists bracing to evacuate.

The fire has scorched 152,545 acres and threatened 18,347 homes in El Dorado County as of Saturday night. CAL FIRE told ABC7 471 homes have been destroyed. The fire is only 19% contained.

RELATED: Evacuation warning 'possible' for South Lake Tahoe as massive blaze moves closer

"We're working as hard as we can," said CAL FIRE's Jay Smith. "Our crews are working 24-hour shifts back to back to get the upper hand on this."

The flames are burning roughly 12 miles south of South Lake Tahoe - the mountain resort town usually bustling with tourists this time of year.


"It's just like a ghost town," said Jim Pilgrim, a tourist visiting from Oklahoma. "Sadly there's nothing open but the casino."

The city's main strip deserted as businesses are closed up, parking lots empty, and the golf course desolate.

"I feel sorry for the people that own businesses that don't get any money," said Pilgrim. "They're the ones that are hurting."

RELATED: Lake Tahoe's air quality is so bad, Labor Day weekend visitors are canceling their trips
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The historic fires have led to historically bad air quality in the Lake Tahoe basin, so bad that many visitors are canceling their up coming visits.



The air quality index or AQI in South Lake Tahoe went from 150 to 300 within a few hours as smoke pummeled into the city.

"It's the worst I've ever seen it by far," said Jim McCall, who's lived in South Lake for 32 years. "One of the days the sky turned black in the afternoon...it looked like something out of Wizard of Oz...like really scary stuff."

CAL FIRE is expected to battle the heat along with dry and windy conditions over the next few days.

"With the wind...you can tell how strong it's getting," said Smith. "The fire activity will increase, but we are hopeful it won't be as aggressive."

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