Sierra-at-Tahoe & Caldor Fire

ChrisC

Active member
So sad to see the Caldor Fire rip through Sierra-at-Tahoe last night. Looks like they were able to save structures: lodges and lifts. However, I wonder what damage the forest sustained - are we going to be skiing through blackened trees for the next xx years?

https://gizmodo.com/surreal-photos-show ... 1847586021

4c1fd951705fe945b492fdab15f119ca.jpg


This feels a little similar to my experience at Brian Head and its Bark Beetle pandemic - all of its major Spruce trees are now gone and you are skiing through a weirdly denuded landscape.

“It used to be a big, beautiful, thick green forest,” says mountain manager Mac Hatch, who’s worked at the resort since the mid-1980s. “Now there are just patches of spruce.”

https://www.skimag.com/ski-resort-life/ ... i-country/
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
ChrisC":3ewvip67 said:
This feels a little similar to my experience at Brian Head and its Bark Beetle pandemic - all of its major Spruce trees are now gone and you are skiing through a weirdly denuded landscape.
During my one and only Brian Head visit in 2004, it was already looking sparse throughout most of the ski area; however, certain sections still had decent stands of spruce trees. I'm afraid to see how they look today.

bh-all-day-jpg.4282
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Here's the map showing new burn areas each day, similar to what we posted during the Station Fire in 2009:
CaldorFire08312021.jpeg

Link for updates

The Caldor Fire is a very big deal. All of South Lake Tahoe has been evacuated east into Nevada via Hwy 50 or Kingsbury Grade. I assume Tseeb has stayed away from his cabin as the smoke pollution from Caldor has been intense for well over a week. From the map above you can see the northeast salient has jumped Hwy 89 and is directly south of Tahoe in the outskirts of Meyers. If the fire continues east it will burn south of Heavenly and into Nevada. If it turns north, the entire South Lake Tahoe residential area of shingle roof cabins embedded in pine forest would be at risk. Meanwhile the southeast salient is approaching Kirkwood.

Consequently all of the national forests in California have been closed until Sept. 17, something I never recall occurring before. There are no fires or smoke near Mammoth, but I got an e-mail saying that all the summer activities there are being shut down to Sept. 17. Even the Angeles, Cleveland and San Bernardino forests in SoCal are supposed to be closed, though I presume commuter traffic through them will be permitted. I'm guessing this extreme action was taken in order to minimize the odds of new fires breaking out that might divert resources from Caldor and Dixie. Dixie started 7/14 in a more remote area but is 807,396 acres and 47% contained. Caldor is 191,607 acres and 16% contained.
 

ChrisC

Active member
Looks like the drive on US-50 will be a charred mess into the future. Takes so long for the forest to regrow - remember visiting Yellowstone NP for the first time in mid-2000s just seeing the forest starting to recover from the extensive 1988 fires.

Looks like the fire will pass dangerously close to Heavenly - just to the south.

Hopefully, South Tahoe will be spared and Tseeb's cabin.

Caldor Fire.JPG
 

snowave

Member
It is tragic. I hope they are able to save the towns/ski areas in its path.

The enormity of forest fires in the last 20-ish years is just astounding to me. (And I worked for 13 years with the USFS, and was exposed to many fires during that time).
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
snowave":2y1dl799 said:
The enormity of forest fires in the last 20-ish years is just astounding to me.
Here in the northeast, we're standing by later today for five inches of rain from what's left of Hurricane Ida, which follows six inches ten days ago from Hurricane Henri. Wish we could send some of it out west.
 

snowave

Member
yeah, unfortunately it usually like that. If one side of the country is very wet, the other is very dry...generally the same story for temps.

I also see the remnants of Nora are giving a nice soaking to the 4 corners area, too. Thankfully for them, the summer monsoon has been a good one this year. However, long term drought is often not broken by monsoon rains in that region (as drought reduction is more dependent on big winter snowpack). Thankfully, It does dampen the fire danger though.

Our area up here in the PacNW is still super dry. I'm really hoping the projected La Nina winter gives us above avg snowfall this year. That's not a given though, especially when its a weak/moderate one that is expected.
 

tseeb

Active member
I was RV camping overlooking Monterey Bay between Capitola and Rio Del Mar from Sun - Tues with limited Internet and TV when Caldor Fire broke through lines and got to Echo Summit Sun PM which meant Christmas Valley was going to get hit with flaming embers dropping off 1000'+ high ridge. So far it sounds many cabins and lodges between Hwy 50 and Echo Lakes were saved unlike community of Phillips located at turnoff to Sierra-at-Tahoe where https://www.tahoedailytribune.com/news/ ... -by-caldor

Once fire was in Tahoe Basin, if it was not controlled, fire could have burned more than 10,000 homes and cabins from Camp Richardson to Stateline where my family's cabin is located 3 blocks E of Pioneer Trail about a mile from Stateline casinos. But AFAIK the fire has been kept away from all residences in Christmas Valley, Meyers and South Lake Tahoe. Our cabin is in a heavily forested area including a 6' diameter pine tree within a couple of feet of it. But besides the big fire lines protecting all of SLT, the block behind us was cleared of homes when a freeway was proposed long ago so that would give firefighters another place to make a stand. I don't want to jinx us, but at this time it looks like fire will spare our cabin.

A friend lost his cabin in the Twin Bridges area between Strawberry and Sierra. Another friend who lives in Meyers thought he had time to take his car and boat to a safer place and return for his truck loaded with what he wanted to save from fire. Sheriffs made him get into running car and leave his truck behind. Other friends have places in more danger including one within a mile of the fire way up hill behind Sierra House school, and another on 2nd road off main road into Kirkwood where fire has been kept from entering valley although it continues to try to get over ridge. Some good sources of info are posts in Unofficial Kirkwood Community on Facebook and the-lookout.org

We had planned to go to cabin on Wednesday as we had tickets to outdoor concert this weekend at Harvey's. But we were not going if AQI was in the 200s as we had already experienced a couple of days of that in Sierra foothills in early August from Dixie and River fires. On Sun. evening I received email telling me to download app so I could show tickets to get into concert. On Mon PM, I received email informing me if was canceled (as expected and as others earlier in week had been). The only thing I was able to do was to call neighbor, who owns business near the Y and more vehicles than he could easily evacuate and was very tired, and have him turn off gas at meter.

Screen captures are Air Quality in South Lake Tahoe last Thurs eve and Pollock Pines Fri AM from PurpleAir.com last week.
 

Attachments

  • 2128SLT_Thurs10PM.PNG
    2128SLT_Thurs10PM.PNG
    458.6 KB · Views: 9,932
  • 2129PollockPinesFri8AM.PNG
    2129PollockPinesFri8AM.PNG
    443.4 KB · Views: 9,933

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Tseeb's video link above is informative.

Detail map of northeast quarter of Caldor Fire today:
CaldorFire09022021NE.jpeg

The southeast salient is burning past Kirkwood north of Hwy 88. Tseeb's source above says it will run into a granite ridge to the northeast which aircraft can easily defend/coat with retardant.

Closeup zoom of South Tahoe area:
CaldorFire09022021SoTahoe.jpeg

The zigzag line south of Heavenly is presumably a bulldozer cleared area. It runs close to Cold Creek, then along the Monument Pass Trail to the Nevada border. The northeast salient of the fire is in the mountains south of Cold Creek. It would need to jump that canyon, run up the backside of Heavenly, then down through the ski area to reach most of South Lake Tahoe. Heavenly has already turned on its snow guns to water down the ski area.

The boundary is next to residential neighborhoods in Meyers, but Tseeb's source say there's a line of bulldozer clearance and that by today the hottest spots of active fire are farther east. Another positive sign is that OpenSnow forecasts that winds which have been mostly from the SW will be more from the NW over the next few days.
 

tseeb

Active member
Amazing results of firefighting efforts posted at https://www.tahoedailytribune.com/news/ ... e-patient/ this morning: "Just three structures have been damaged in the basin, two commercial structures were judged to be 1-9% affected while a utility structure about 120-square feet was 10-25% damaged."

Friend's house is located below and to left of the number in square marked 11 on map Tony Crocker posted which is just above square 14 that includes fire lines. He did a lot of clearing of pine needles at the beginning of Summer, renting a trailer and making two trips to haul them all away. I usually sweep the flatter part of our roof a couple of times a year and put out 3-8 garbage cans of pine needles collected there and elsewhere on small lot every time I stay at cabin (when ground is not snow covered).
 

ChrisC

Active member
Looks like Sierra-at-Tahoe actually did sustain very heavy damage. Only about 20-30% of the mountain is going to be available, and just the beginner/low intermediate terrain with a vertical of less than 1000 ft.
1. No West Bowl
2. No Grandview
3. No Trees

Very sad. The lifts can be replaced, but the tree skiing could be impaired for years.

https://liftblog.com/2021/10/21/sierra-at-tahoe-aims-to-open-with-limited-terrain/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I misspoke. Looks like Tahoe King will be available so that puts the available mountain more at 50-60%.
 

EMSC

Active member
ChrisC said:
Looks like Tahoe King will be available so that puts the available mountain more at 50-60%.

Potentially a lot less, as I've heard they will eliminate all tree skiing for this season even where the lifts are open. So you're probably stuck to formal trails only on that 50-60% of the footprint. But down to 3 doubles and a beginner HSQ for capacity as well, yikes. Very classy move on the extension of their season passes to two seasons though.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
I've only skied there twice, but once was at the start of a major storm and I recall the tree skiing being quite good. So yes I agree with EMSC about this being a major hit and I'm also impressed with the treatment of their passholders and the assistance from Mammoth and Palisades. Fortunately for those passholders, Sierra-at-Tahoe is part of the Powder Alliance, so they have some decent options if they are willing to hit the road.
 

ChrisC

Active member
The best thing about Sierra-at-Tahoe was its trees. West Bowl had fun groomers, and the cut runs around Tahoe King were steep enough. But the fun was in the trees.

I had a pass there and Northstar for cheap student rates....sad to see the woods burn.
 

tseeb

Active member
The latest update from Sierra was posted on 9/13 at https://www.sierraattahoe.com/blog/general/caldor-fire-update/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; and includes "It is unlikely that we will open in 2021 - so we have set our sights on resuming operations in early 2022." It also says "Grandview Express’ haul rope, which suspends the ski lift’s chairs, was damaged during the fire and a replacement cable is currently in production in Switzerland." There are more recent posts at https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=sierra-at-tahoe" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I also saw https://www.californiafallcolor.com/2021/10/15/a-weekend-of-hope/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; which at one time said "fire spared the ski area’s day lodge, it wiped out the equipment shed, destroying the area’s fleet of snow grooming cats", but have not seen that they lost their cats anywhere else and that has since been removed from this story. I emailed the editor of story but did not get a reply. I was hoping it was one of their smaller equipment sheds that burned, not the huge one on the SW corner of parking lot. If Sierra lost all of their snow grooming cats, that would be a huge loss. Even if insurance covers replacement, it may take some time to get them and have a place where they can be maintained and stored.
 
Top