Caldor Fire still fresh in memory (Opinion) |

Caldor Fire still fresh in memory (Opinion)

At this time last year, we all were forced to flee the Caldor Fire as it took aim at the Tahoe Basin.

The skies were orange, the air was thick with hazardous smoke and embers the size of large marbles were falling from the sky on my house in the N. Upper Truckee neighborhood.

I remember calling Cal Fire and asking a public information officer if they were planning to issue an evacuation warning. After saying they are reviewing the situation, a short time later they bypassed a warning and hit us with an evacuation order for those of us nearest to Echo Summit, where the blaze eventually entered the basin. Who knows, maybe my description of embers to the PIO influenced decision making. Evacuation orders for the rest of South Lake Tahoe weren’t far behind.

We all saw the devastation in Grizzly Flats, then at our beloved Sierra-at-Tahoe, and then the cabins on Echo Summit as the 15th largest wildfire in the state’s history chewed through drought-parched trees and vegetation on its march to the basin. The fire consumed 221,835 acres. I know I feared the worst when I left my home for a couple of days. Just a horrible feeling. 

Every time I drive by the burn scar, which is about one mile from home, it brings back memories — good and bad, the good being my wife giving birth to our baby boy while we were still evacuated. 

Businesses last year that were hoping for a strong finish to the summer season, got exactly the opposite on the Labor Day holiday weekend. They were shuttered, streets were empty, except for wildlife and some emergency vehicles, and all that remained were our brave firefighters who kept our homes and businesses safe. 

It was a wild time I hope we never revisit. 

This year, I remembered why I love Lake Tahoe. We’ve had a couple of smoky days but for the most part, the summer weather has been perfect.

According to the Forest Service, there have been more than 500 wildfires in California national forests this year with about 98% of them contained in the first 48 hours — outstanding!

This Labor Day holiday weekend, Tahoe will see thousands of visitors escaping a heat wave that will reach triple digits while local temperatures are expected to be in the high 80s to low 90s.

Those recreating outdoors this weekend, should plan for the heat, drink and conserve water, watch for hazard trees in and near the burn scar, keep bears wild and clean up and secure your trash, don’t even think about using fireworks and most of all, know the rules before starting a campfire. Wood and charcoal fires are not allowed, unless in campgrounds with metal rings and grills.

We need everybody to act responsibly so we can escape the summer without another catastrophe. Have fun this holiday weekend, and don’t be the one that sparks the next wildfire.

Bill Rozak is editor for the Tribune. He may be reached at

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