Caldor Fire spread within 20 miles (32 km) of the lake that crosses the California-Nevada state border. It ate through rugged timberlands, and "knocking at the door" to the Lake Tahoe basin, California's chief state fire chief Thom Porter warned this past week.
On Tuesday, it rained ash and tourists fled to cafes, outdoor gear shops, and casinos along Lake Tahoe Boulevard.
At midmorning Wednesday, South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City, on the west shore, had the worst air pollution in the country. They had 334 and 351 respectively, according to AirNow (a partnership of federal and state air agencies).
Cocktail waitresses dressed in leopard-print corsets and fishnet stockings served blackjack and slots customers at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Ramona Trejo, sitting at a slot machine next to a window, looked out at the cars driving through the fog. She said that she and her husband would remain for their 50th anniversary as planned.
Trejo, who has to use supplemental oxygen because of respiratory problems, stated that her husband wanted to continue gambling.
She said, "I would like to go now."
Rick Nelson, south of Tahoe, and Diane Nelson, his wife, planned to host a weekend-long wedding at Fallen Leaf Lake where his daughter and her fiancé had met. The smoke made it impossible for most people to stay. The sun shone a strange blood orange, and the boats and floats in the lake were covered by fog.
The Nelsons spent two days trying to arrange for the move of the wedding from the glacial lake a few hours southwest to San Francisco Bay Area.
"Everybody is trying to make accommodations in order to smoke. Diane Nelson stated that she believes it is becoming a reality. "I think the smoke and fires are getting bigger, hotter, and faster-moving," Diane Nelson said.
According to scientists, climate change has made the West more dry and warmer over the past 30 years. It will continue to cause extreme weather and more wildfires to become more destructive.
Although Lake Tahoe was not evacuated, it was impossible for schools to be left unaffected by the thickening haze that covered Reno, Nevada. Reno is approximately 60 miles (100 km) away from the fire.
Reno's school district reopened all schools Wednesday due to improved air quality. The Washoe County Schools District schools in Incline Village, on the north shore Lake Tahoe, remained closed, however, the district stated in a statement.
After an illegal campfire exploded, the last major fire in the area took South Lake Tahoe by surprise. The Angora fire, which lasted less than five miles (13 kilometers) in area, destroyed 254 houses and injured three others. It also forced 2,000 people from their homes.
Since Aug. 14, Caldor has destroyed more than 461 homes and scorched more 197 miles (510 km) of land in the Sierra Nevada southwest. It was contained at 11% and threatened more that 17,000 structures.
More than a dozen wineries and small towns were threatened by the fire's western side. Officials said that crews worked on the eastern side of the fire to clear ridgetops, open narrow logging roads, and bulldoze fire lines.
According to fire officials, more than 2,500 firefighters were present and additional resources were flowing in, including large firefighting aircraft.
"It's No. "It's the No. 1 fire in the country at the moment... there are dozens of crews, dozers, engines and other resources that are on their way right right now," stated Jeff Marsolais who is also the supervisor for Eldorado National Forest but is also the administrator.
These resources were urgently needed.
"This fire simply outpaced us. Marsolais stated that the fire had been contained by emptying the cabinets of resources. However, the fire's explosive growth has slowed in recent days. "That can change," Marsolais added.
California's Dixie Fire was still burning 65 miles (104 km) north. It is the second-largest state fire in California history, measuring 1,148 square miles (2973 square kilometers). It was 43% contained. It was estimated that 682 homes were among the more than 1,270 buildings destroyed.
The French Fire, which was threatening Lake Isabella, a popular boating and fishing destination, is causing concern in the southern Sierra Nevada. Around 10 communities were placed under evacuation orders. Since Aug. 18, the fire has engulfed 32 square miles (83 km2) of land.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (Boise, Idaho), there were 92 large fires burning across the country, most of them in Western states.
Northern California has been the victim of a string of devastating blazes, which have destroyed hundreds of homes and left many others uninhabitable.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden declared a major California disaster and directed federal aid to be made available to local agencies, governments, and fire victims in the four northern counties that were ravaged by blazes since July 14.