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Devastating Photos Show The Caldor Fire Burning Near Lake Tahoe

The fire continued to threaten communities around Lake Tahoe on Tuesday.

Posted on August 31, 2021, at 3:54 p.m. ET

When the Caldor fire started on Aug. 14 in Northern California, no one expected that two weeks later its flames would cross the Sierra Nevada mountains, threatening the communities and beloved tourist attractions around Lake Tahoe. But as temperatures rise around the world due to climate change, massive and destructive wildfires have become California's new normal. A dangerous mix of embers, wind, and dry land enabled the wildfire to consume more than 191,000 acres; South Lake Tahoe, a city of 22,000 people, faced a tense backlog of traffic on Monday as people were forced to evacuate. As fire crews worked through the night — using retardant, water sources, and even snowblowers from a local resort — the blaze resisted containment, leaving locals and firefighters unsure how much more it will progress.

These photos show the unrelenting power of the fire and the community it is impacting.

A lone chimney stands in a forest, surrounded by rubble from a destroyed structure
Jae C. Hong / AP

A chimney stands on a property destroyed by the Caldor fire near South Lake Tahoe, Aug. 31.

A massive cloud of smoke fills the sky over a forested ridge
Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images

In this long-exposure photograph, fire and smoke push into the Lake Tahoe region, Aug. 29.

A man plays violin and leans against his Jeep in front of several cars in bumper-to-bumper traffic under a smoky sky
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A man plays violin as he waits in a miles-long traffic jam on Highway 50 as people evacuate South Lake Tahoe, Aug. 30.

A cylindrical machine on wheels blows clouds over a dirt-covered hill
Brontë Wittpenn / San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

A snow machine drenches a slope-facing patio to protect it from the Caldor fire at Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort in Twin Bridges, California, Aug. 30.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Winds blow embers and sparks on the night of Aug. 30.

Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images

Multiple homes burn as the Caldor fire pushes into South Lake Tahoe, Aug. 30.

Ten firefighters in uniform sit and stand on a moving truck under a hazy sky
Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters arrive as the Caldor fire pushes into South Lake Tahoe, Aug. 30.

A firefighter in uniform sits on the back of a truck
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A firefighter prepares for duty in South Lake Tahoe, Aug. 30.

A firefighter stands on burning embers at night
Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Fire crews work all night to stop the spread of the Caldor fire, Aug. 30.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

An idle chairlift at the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort in Twin Bridges, California, Aug. 30

Two firefighters wearing gear and headlamps work at night in a burning forest
Jae C. Hong / AP

Two firefighters create a fuel break as the Caldor fire burns near South Lake Tahoe, Aug. 30.

Flames taller than pine trees on a hillside shoot into the sky
Fred Greaves / Reuters

The Caldor fire burns in Twin Bridges, Aug. 29.

Brontë Wittpenn / San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Madeleine Castellanos, 3, leans out of the window of her mother’s car while they wait in an evacuation line on Highway 50 in South Lake Tahoe, Aug. 30.

A uniformed firefighter stands in a meadow and pours gas onto a fire
Brontë Wittpenn / San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Mark Salerno of the Iron Mountain Hand Crew creates a fire break near Echo Summit Lodge in South Lake Tahoe, Aug. 30.

A fire blazes on a hillside in the background behind a barn with a US flag on the side
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The Caldor fire burns in the hills above homes near South Lake Tahoe, Aug. 30.

Flames violently destroy a structure
Fred Greaves / Reuters

Flames are seen in the windows of a cabin near Phillips, California, Aug. 29.

A tattered US flag burns at night
Fred Greaves / Reuters

An American flag burns near Phillips, California, Aug. 29.

Three firefighters in uniform stand near a brush fire and converse
Brittany Hosea-small / Reuters

From left: Darob Baker, Matt Ziebarth, and Capt. Rob Sime, all with the El Dorado County Fire Department, work on protecting structures near South Lake Tahoe, Aug. 30.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.