Firefighters continue to make significant progress on the Caldor Fire near Lake Tahoe. As of Sunday night, the fire was 65% contained and residents have been systematically repopulating the South Shore for over a week. As South Lake Tahoe residents return home, there is still no timetable for reopening Highway 50, the main connection from the Bay Area and Sacramento to the South Shore of Tahoe.
The Caldor fire tracked along the highway during its rapid push east towards the Lake Tahoe Basin. According to an article by Fox 40, CalTrans not only has to clear the debris off the road, address the down powerlines, and inspect the road surface. Geologists also need to assess the slopes along the road to check stability. Burn scars are prime territory for landslides and loose rocks rolling downhill. This could be tremendously dangerous for motorists.
The closure of this highway has had a tremendous impact on businesses in South Lake Tahoe that have already been closed for weeks. According to Mayor Tamara Wallace, South Lake Tahoe businesses lose out on approximately $1,000,000 of business per day when the highway is closed. After all, the overwhelming majority of businesses are tethered to tourism directly or indirectly.
According to Eater San Francisco, the restaurant industry alone lost nearly $20 million in just the first three weeks of the Caldor Fire. This industry had already been hit extremely hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and has since struggled with staffing and mandated limits on capacity.
Lake Tahoe is obviously a mecca for outdoor recreation. All forest service land has been closed due to the fire conditions statewide. This decision will be reevaluated this week and there is a high likelihood that the closure will be extended. Afterall, the weather and fire conditions have not drastically changed.
Let’s all hope the heroic firefighters continue to gain the upper hand on this ferocious fire. Once the highway is safe to open, fingers are crossed for a stellar fall and snowy winter so South Lake Tahoe businesses can recover.