Fire threat eases, Tahoe residents return

·2-min read

Tens of thousands of people forced to flee South Lake Tahoe can begin returning to their homes after evacuation orders were downgraded as crews made progress against a massive wildfire.

The orders that sent 22,000 people in and around the resort fleeing last week were reduced to warnings on Sunday as the fire virtually stalled a few kilometres from the forest areas straddling the California-Nevada border.

The threat from the Caldor Fire has not entirely vanished, but those who wish can return to their homes in what became a smoke-choked ghost town instead of a thriving holiday spot.

Mandatory evacuation orders on the Nevada side of the state line were lifted on Saturday, although Douglas County authorities urged residents to stay alert.

The wind-driven fire was mainly held within containment lines overnight and was 43 per cent contained, according to Cal Fire.

Winds that drove the flames through tinder-dry trees, grass and granite outcroppings eased in recent days, and fire crews were able to double down on bulldozing, burning or hacking out fire lines.

The fire that began on August 14 has destroyed more than 700 homes and injured nine firefighters and civilians, Cal Fire reported.

California and much of the western US have seen dozens of wildfires in the past two months as the drought-stricken region sweltered under hot, dry weather and winds drove flames through bone-dry vegetation.

In California, nearly 14,500 firefighters were battling 13 large, active fires. Since the year began, more than 7000 wildfires have devoured nearly 8000 square kilometres, Cal Fire said.

The Dixie Fire burning north of the Caldor Fire began in mid-July in the northern Sierra Nevada and is the second-largest wildfire in recorded state history.

It has burned nearly 3625 sq km, according to Cal Fire.

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