Lake Tahoe Suffocates With Smoke

Aug 27, 2021 · 373 comments
Tom (Pennsylvania)
The primary reason for these massive fires is forest mismanagement. But this has become similar to discussions on vaccinations. We can't have an honest discussion about root cause without devolving in to the blame game with everybody retreating to their tribe. For example: DJT: "It's the state's fault", prominent democrats: "Trump cut the budget" and back and forth. Obviously, Biden isn't the guy as he bumbles his way our latest military evacuation crisis. Hopefully, a better leader will emerge to lead us through this.
John Tollefson (Banks Mtn NC)
Humans will not change their suicidal tendencies. We will be extinct or nearly extinct by 2100. I can see the end - a Texan in a 30 foot long pickup truck trying to get extra cheese on a Big Mac at a robot McDonald's while balancing his shotgun and beer in his lap. Boom.
Wild Buck (Mexico)
Why is there not a national effort to buy more firefighting aircraft? Or, why can’t military aircraft be refitted to become firefighting aircraft? The only hope seems to be adding many more water bombers to actually have any chance of putting out these devastating fires. The smoke from these fires are going to cause massive respiratory illnesses that will be worth billions in health care costs, not to mention the billions in lost property and timber. The wildfires are a problem with a solution, and that solution is buying and deploying more firefighting aircraft.ASAP.
John (CT)
July 7, 1924 - NYTimes 'California fires rage' "Two fires in the Sequoia National Forest and one in the Tahoe National Forest were out of control today...The Tahoe fire seemed to be the most serious" July 6, 1959 - NYTimes 'High Winds Fanning Tahoe Forest Fire' "Billows of smoke hung over a widening area. At Reno, Nev., the gray pall almost blotted out the sun." October 3, 1967 - NYTimes 'Fire Sweeps Timber Area' "A forest fire caused by a downed power line swept today through timberland near Lake Tahoe in winds of up to 60 miles per hour." August 10, 1985 - NYTimes 'Forest Fires Burn Homes In California Mountains' "Three forest fires charred thousands of acres in the Sierra Nevada today...Route 50, the main road running east to Lake Tahoe, was closed" Evidently, the thousands of "newcomers" are unaware that fires in the Sierra Nevada mountains are not unusual...and are a risk one must accept when living in a timberland area.
David (California)
Welcome to climate change: death by a thousand cuts.
AB (Brooklyn)
These poor, poor rich people retreating from their new expensive homes to other abodes in Santa Monica and San Diego. They just don’t get it. Their entire lifestyle is the cause of this, no matter how many electric cars and vegan products they buy.
Gary (Connecticut)
The Iraq war cost more than $3 trillion; the final accounting won't be in for years. Afghanistan gobbled up $2.26 trillion. The total defense budget--which we ordinary citizens aren't allowed to know--is surely well north of $1 trillion/year. Biden wants to spent $1 trillion over 10 years to "modernize" our nukes (read: make them easier to use). How much does that come to? Something like $25 trillion over 20 years. What did we get for all that money? The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are something like 1:3.27 million. Has this expenditure done anything to benefit ordinary Americans? Suppose even only half had been spent on the climate. Suppose we had upgraded the electric grid, moved to 100% electric vehicles, put rooftop solar on every building, constructed high-speed rail across the country--what then? Oh, I forgot. The issue of the day is Critical Race Theory taught in our preschools. And the Maricopa County 2020 recount. And transgender kids lined up outside the bathroom. The really important stuff. We are doomed.
Evan (SF Bay)
I enjoyed the nod to Deep Purple (paragraph 11).
JP (Hua Hin)
I want to know when will the fossil fuel companies that actively engaged in lying about what they knew, and suppressing that information to the public will be held accountable. Look at all the deniers in congress. They were bribed to take that stance, and to fight against the scientists who were trying to warn everyone about climate change and global warming from burning the products of those companies. Yes, we're all complicit to one degree or another, but the oil and coal companies knew decades ago this wpould happen. What happens to them now? Do they get to walk away with no consequences?
Ralph Petrillo (Nyc)
Lane Tahoe is for the wealthy. Filled with Facebook money. Remember they allowed Trump to debt global warming and finally boycotted him. Low income and middke income areas have been suffering for years.
Erik Frederiksen (Sonora, CA)
Broecker is considered by many to be the 'grandfather of climate science'. ... He was quoted in 1998 saying “”the climate system is an angry beast and we are poking it with sticks,” I might add that the result is likely to be ferocious.
Chicago Guy (Chicago, Il)
When will all those Republicans who got filthy rich off of lying to us for decades ever be held accountable? I'd tell you not to hold your breath, but will all the smoke in the air I guess you'll have to.
just another guy in (Ohio)
Yup. Million dollar homes. Vacation paradise. Will the last one out please turn off the lights?
brian lindberg (creston, ca)
"But the smoke has overwhelmed Mr. Abernathy. He now wears industrial-grade respirators when he is outdoors."...everyone up there the foolish guy with his dog on the lake shore...should be wearing the same, or they will pay a lifelong price for it.
Curtis (New York)
Of course you can get away from this smoke... move to, like, Indiana or something.
Sophie K (SLC)
three words: better forest management!!!
Critical Thinker (Oakland, CA.)
I spent 30 years riding motorcycles through some of the most magnificent areas in California now burning out of control, and even though I no longer ride I feel badly for the next generation that will ride through blackened forests and small deserted, burned out towns where I used to stop to eat or rest. I don't know how long it will take for these forests to turn tall and green again but if climate change isn't abated they may never turn green again. What a tragedy on so many levels!
Sheriff (Longmire)
Before I left Oregon, I experienced smoke like this beginning in 2017. It is very hard to describe the suffocating feeling of a blotted out sun and hazardous air quality where the only retreat is to inside into a room hopefully with an air purifier. If there is one good that comes out of the people at Lake Tahoe experiencing this it's that these people have money and power and come from many different places to vacation and might go home become more engaged in the fight against climate change, having had a taste of this hellscape of fire smoke that has consistently plagued pretty much everywhere in the Pacific Northwest / northern West (Montana, Colorado) for the last four years straight. It is one thing to read about it. An entirely different thing to experience it. I had trouble after I left Oregon and came back East even trying to describe it to my family and friends. who basically had no idea. I comment on all these fire smoke stories because it is absolutely the worst climate thing that I had ever experienced in my entire life and it started kind of suddenly in 2017 and has come back now year after year when before 2017, it never happened on this scale. It was like a switch has been flipped.
S.E. Poza (Yreka, CA)
While this is the outcome of climate change, we cannot address the specific issue of wildfires and smoke (which I've now lived with for nearly two months of every year for the last 6 years in far Northern CA) by talking about the larger issue. It is impossible to address the root cause. We need to manage the symptoms. I'm exhausted by people who talk about these problems only in terms of the larger issue which no indiviudal person or even individual nation can successfully address. Wildfires and being choked to death by smoke are not the sticks to force people to deal with climate change. They are very real and hard realities that we need to manage rather than cluck about their causes. Deal with the symptom concurrent with the cause.
William Cooper (Soda Springs)
Welcome to The Restaurant at the End of The World, but without any time traveling escape. Enjoy your meal.
dori (northampton)
I really, *really* feel for all the service workers in Tahoe who have nowhere else to go and have been working three jobs just to stick around in a place where finding an affordable place to live becomes ever more difficult. However... I can't help but indulge in a little schadenfreude either - I lived in a beautiful little rural mountain town that got overrun during Covid, too, with people from the city buying up everything, bidding over everyone else with cash offers, etc. - same thing happening where I live now, too.
Lance Jencks (Newport Beach, CA)
Not looking good for Tahoe. Visited during my college years, then again much later for a springtime stay at Camp Richardson on the lake. Keeping fingers crossed for everyone up there.
Ken (california)
smoke is not the issue. We can all deal with smoke. The fire itself is eating thousands of acres. Forestry but the USA and by the California Dept of Forestry and Fire protection (which likes to call itself Calfire) has done little or nothing about the forestry part of their jobs. 6-8 months of the year they go to traffic accidents and ignore clearing forests. that's the real problem
Hugh (Upstate NY)
@Ken, inhaling a significant amount of smoke is an issue. It damages your lungs. Some parts of you lungs will heal and some won't. On average, it shortens your life. None of this is meant to minimize the fire damage. It is very serious but in a different way.
Ted Novell (Canada)
Funny thing, or not. One of my cousins living in Beverly Hills was so proud of the family get away home in Lake Tahoe. That was the early 80’s . Look at it now 40 years later. A sad indicator of what we have destroyed in just 40 years through our total disrespect of the only planet we call home. What was once Paradise is in flames. More to come. Armageddon out of here is a good idea if only we had somewhere else to go. The biggest lesson in we reap what we sowed.
Kathleen (Oakland)
We have had 4 years of severe drought in California and bug invasion has made trees more flammable. It has been many years since we have had the continued rainy seasons that used to be normal. Except for climate change there is no single answer for wildfires like forest control or population expansion. It is painful to read single minded comments from non Californians who do not know the facts.
homo sapiens (Pasco, WA)
It is too bad. Western North America is well on its way to becoming a very large version of Afghanistan. Don't worry about the smoke in the future, if the forests come back at all they will not be as before, they will be the twenty foot thickets of brush, forbs (forb or phorb is a herbaceous flowering plant) and grass, sedge, seen in the Los Angeles basin, they burn catastrophically but fairly cleanly, and they regrow quickly. Human activity has so reduced the fertility of the forests that trees will simply not grow. They are dying of starvation now. And, until the paradigm on ecosystem management changes, starvation of the ecosystem will continue, until perhaps, it reaches people. Keep an eye on how well 38 million folks do in Afghanistan, if their population plummets, probably so will that of western North America
Donny Moss (New York City)
The one thing that each of us can do on a daily basis to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint is to eliminate animal products from our diet. That would also help prevent pandemics, improve our health and save billions of animals from the terror of factory farms and slaughterhouses. But it’s tough to compete with “Mmm bacon.”
dori (northampton)
@Donny Moss hold corporations accountable. No amount of me skipping out on McDonalds is going to make nearly the kind of change a corporation held accountable for its actions will.
Kali (Australia)
Water pollution follows air pollution. The effects of these fires will be an ecological disaster for a long time to come.
Montalvo (Puerto Vallarta)
@Kali ...and mud slides! Here in CO, we've had I-70, our major east-west route, closed for WEEKS due to fire-caused mud slides.
BacktoBasicsRob (NewYork, NY)
Surely preserving the iconic beauty of the Lake Tahoe region is enough to persuade the appropriate Biden Cabinet Secretary to recommend that the Army Corp of Engineers and any other necessary federal personnel be detailed to the region forthwith to protect it from the fire and to gain control over the fire. What are they waiting for ?
Sendero Caribe (Playa Hermosa)
@BacktoBasicsRob The firefighters said they have the resources.
Wayno (Reno, NV)
@Sendero Caribe Actually, they say stated they need 3000- 5000 firefighters for the Caldor fire and have approx 2500 currently...
Jorge L (NY)
Just checked South Lake Tahoe has an Air Quality Index of 193 = Unhealthy ( This is not only an environmental catastrophe, but a health one as well. Inhaling Particulate Matter from smoke can kill you. I just don't understand how people are not pitch fork in hand in front of Congress demanding the end of burning of fossil fuels NOW.
Dani (El Dorado Hills CA)
@Jorge L Because other issues have far more bearing. From two sources: North America scientists have found 2000-year-old evidence of controlled burnings by Native American Tribes. But this practice died out with the arrival of European immigrants, because of local bans as well as the expulsion of tribes from native lands. As a consequence, forests not only became larger and denser but also filled with mounds of dead and dried vegetation, making them very susceptible to fire. And: The fourth heat wave in the West is reaching dangerous and record-breaking levels. The National Weather Service is warning the heatwave could break more records and fuel more fires. Nearly 60% of the Western U. S. is considered in exceptional or extreme drought, the two highest categories, according to the University of Nebraska's Drought Monitor. That's the highest percentage in the 20 years the drought monitor has been keeping track. Less than 1% of the West is not in drought or considered abnormally dry, also a record. Both NOAA and NASA show soil moisture levels down to some of the lowest recorded levels for much of the West. Most of CA, OR, WA, NV, AZ, UT, and ID are drier than in 99% of other years.
Nancy (Chicago, IL)
@Jorge L Sad to consider that even if we eliminate ALL fossil fuels NOW, it may be too late. We’ve waited too long.
Mike (NJ)
Ecological disasters are health disasters. This is an example of that fact.
Simple. Leave CA It’s not going to get better
S_G (CA)
Says the person in Miami which is predicted to be under water by the end of the century if not sooner. Shall we all go there?
dori (northampton)
@Mé shhhhh don't encourage them any further.
steve borsher (coastal ri)
like so many clay pigeons.
It's time to take a proactive approach and start thinning forests.
rflieb (nevada)
@TMDJS probably need more than a trillion dollars for all the labor or do you want to do it for free?
Susan (Manhattan)
I know California is big...but from where I am, across the country in NYC...I just don’t understand how there is going to be anything left. Am I overreacting?
Required (Hideout)
isotopia (NorCal)
I think we should collectively admit to ourselves that we are the frogs sitting in the pot of ever warming water as we sit on the stove and our denial about what's happening is what's keeping us from making the leap out of it.
Mike (NJ)
“We” have. That’s not the problem. It’s whether you’re actually doing anything to change your habits. Our collective habits are killing the planet.
Johnjam101 (Reading, PA)
Flew over yesterday. You could not see a thing through the smoke and fires. We need to take climate change seriously. And yes, I need to fly less.
The Shredder (Earth)
Over the many thousands of years the Native Americans used fire to nurture the ecosystem. I remember years ago hiking near two to three feet of forest duff in South Tahoe. Mother Nature is in charge.
Rob (Seattle, WA)
@The Shredder that’s an overstated urban or shall I say “forest” myth. It’s simply not true. By far, over the centuries, most fires were started naturally by lightening. The real problem is decades of “forest management” and humans population occupying far too many corners of forest land. Both have to stop. The forests did just fine for millions of years without humans.
The Shredder (Earth)
@Rob We are saying the same thing, but the Native Americans worked with Mother Nature and did the opposite of town zoning commissions.
Melissa Maslanka (Chicago)
I love you NYTimes, but do we really need an article about the struggling transplants that are unhappy about moving from one wealthy area to another? What about the people who have lived there forever and see the decline of their lives? Where are they to go? No house in SanFrancisco waiting for them to escape to!
Other (NYC)
The hundreds of billions of dollars that the fossil fuel industry has pumped into funding campaigns, lobbying, and non-profit front groups to make sure Lake Tahoe is suffocating in smoke is really paying off. The results (paid for by all Americans and the rest of the world’s people) are evident across our country. One can only hope they put all those billions in profits they pocket for themselves keeping us pumping at others expense (free riding) to good use. Maybe another yacht??
richard (the west)
In this new world (of our own creation) eventually there will be no place to which to 'run away'.
Nancy (Chicago, IL)
@richard Run away to Milwaukee- yeah, that’s right. Climate not much of an issue. Yes, I know it’s cold, but it won’t kill you or make you sick. Plus, they’ve invested in their infrastructure. Working on speedy railway service to many other major cities. Just saying….
PatitaC (Westside, KCMO)
@Nancy and theres water
Montalvo (Puerto Vallarta)
@richard Class warfare never rests...
Stephen (New York)
The scary part is it’s going to get worse. A lot worse. And it won’t be limited just to certain areas.
Peabody (CA)
This calamity demonstrates that you can’t hide from climate change no matter your wealth. I call on the US and other wealthy nations to redirect half of their military budgets to climate action. The urgency must be dialed up to 11 before we exhaust our ability to adapt and persevere
Sean Berry (Braselton, GA)
Sad sights coming from Reno & Tahoe. I hope the weather will cooperate and the rain starts falling before it all goes up in smoke.
Vic (Williams)
We won’t get any rain until November. Maybe. And California still has the Santa Ana winds to content with. This is beyond a disaster. And the new normal.
Matt V (Sacramento)
You know, most people living around Lake Tahoe are not techies from Silicon Valley, filmmakers from LA, or billionaires who own mansions on Lake. They can decamp to blue sky locations to rethink their investment. Most people breathing three packs of smoke a day are service workers; bank tellers, tow truck drivers, firefighters, police officers, teachers, grocery store workers etc. Their lives aren’t headline grabbing, their occupations aren’t sexy. But there they are, all the Amy Ginders’ of Reno you interviewed, who can’t flee to SF, Santa Cruz, or San Diego. But, thank you NYT for writing an important article about the real impact of climate change on the lives of the inhabitants of Any-Town USA. The peasants can’t leave but the Lords, Earls, Princess’ and Princes are on the run for bluer skies.
cbarber (San Pedro)
Spent many a summer in August vacationing on the north shore. One of the Eight wonders of world. It's so sad what is happening up there. It's down right depressing.
Art (K)
It's a race to enjoy every last bit of it. It being this great big beautiful world. I hope to do some too.
njglea (Seattle)
" When the pandemic swept through California last year, Lake Tahoe, the azure gem of the Sierra Nevada, swarmed with city dwellers fleeing to the purity of its alpine air." Yes, instead of helping make their own communities more livable those who can afford it run to pollute something else. People may run but they can't hide - anywhere in the world. Greed and refusal to protect OUR environment has caused Mother Nature to take matters into her own hands. (For instance Peter Thiel now resides in lovely New Zealand to pollute it any way he can and other 0.01%ers are joining him.) NOW is the time to stop running and take action - no matter how small - to prevent more climate disasters. Start by taxing back all the wealth stolen by "market manipulators" since Regan.
RV (Olmito TX)
Bravo! Well said!
T. E. (San Francisco)
It seems the fact that you can't outrun climate change is finally beginning to set in. Too bad it's happening so (too?) late. Last year people were trying to figure out where to move to avoid the smoke from fires in Northern California, and the ones that did move were patting themselves on the back for finding the "perfect place". Now a year later they're being inundated with smoke from fires burning across the country. They're having to deal with flash flooding from tropical storms and hurricanes, below freezing temps without power, the widening of tornado zones, rising sea water levels, etc. This isn't just a "California Problem". It's time people stopped thinking in terms of this State's problem or that State's problem. I know a lot of that goes back to Trump and his repeated attempts to bring California to heel by singling us out as the problem, but he'll be dead soon enough, and the rest of us have to figure out a way to survive in the face of a crisis that can no longer be outrun no matter what state or country you live in and no matter how much money you do or don't have.
moved around (New Hampshire)
What would happen if we cut back air travel by 90 or 95%?
S_G (CA)
Never going to happen. But people really should fly less.
Adam (NYC)
Heartbreaking to see this transformation of one of my favorite getaways. I guess one silver lining is that Californians have really embraced mask wearing and even if Tahoe has to be avoided in the summer soon it will feel like summer in the winter.
Bob G. (San Francisco)
If recent history is any guide, the minute the fires go out this fall (assuming they do), the real estate frenzy will pop up again in full force. Out of sight out of mind. Until next summer.
Sendero Caribe (Playa Hermosa)
@Bob G. People prefer the Nevada side, if possible.
RW (California)
I have lived in the Bay Area for the last eighteen years. What is discouraging is that even environmentally-conscious California residents have not changed their behaviors substantially, Sure we bike, walk and take the limited public transportation available, some drive electric vehicles and have solar but we also get in cars, order over-packaged goods online, and fly on planes far too much, even though transportation (of people and goods) is one of the biggest contributors to Climate Change. People water thirsty lawns and fill their pools, while their SUV’s have the obligatory Keep Tahoe Blue stuck on the bumper. Clogged highways with employees sitting in cars by themselves and business travel is the norm in California, as it is everywhere. The pandemic showed both could be done remotely. Instead, most companies, even the most innovative, are planning to revert to an unsustainable business model- hauling employees back to those polluting cars and buildings that need heat and cooling and sit empty most of the time. While people are running from Tahoe smoke, we can’t run from climate change. If skies filled with choking smoke doesn’t cause people to change, what will?
Pete (California)
@RW You are exaggerating. Amongst the 50 states, California ranks in the bottom few when it comes to per-capita energy use. That is because of the nation's and the world's strictest energy regulations. Remember when LA skies were filled with smog? No more, or rarely (because of the Air Quality Control Boards). Highways are less clogged now that telecommuting rules, and will probably stay that way for the time being, especially if the state legislature acts to make it more attractive. Recycling is now required, when it used to be a quirky hippie thing. California ranks first in the number of electric and alternatively-powered vehicles. Maybe you haven't been in California long enough to appreciate all the changes.
Nick (Montreal)
@RW Boy, you said it. I lived in Oakland and Alameda in the 70s and 80s and for us a great expedition was going to Tahoe and staying in a friend's condo for free. I went to live in Japan for five years after that but coming back to the Bay Area in 1994 was a real wakeup call—prices had gone through the roof, Highway 80 was now a parking lot most of the day, most days, and everything was getting "gentrified." I came here to Montreal and it's been tolerable, in all those sectors. But one thing is the same everywhere: cars are getting bigger. I see these SUVs that are like the Humvees of yore; I see them driving around in a car that would fit a wagonload of people, empty except the driver. These things are so large that I have to imagine you'd need an external ladder or ramp to get into one. It's backwards. Instead of getting BIGGER, cars are supposed to be getting SMALLER. The reason that they're bigger is because *that is what the people want.* If the people wanted small, sustainable vehicles they would be asking for them. But they're not. It's business as usual as the world BURNS.
Sendero Caribe (Playa Hermosa)
@RW I was in Sacramento last month--drove over from Nevada. Lots of traffic and congestions in the cities. California needs to lead on climate change because it starting far behind and has further to go.
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
People move up there in droves, and they don’t see themselves as part of the problem? I love the Tahoe area more than I can say, but the last time I drove up there I was shocked by the number of standing dead trees, in the area that the Caldor fire has burned and is headed into. This was bound to happen.
Sendero Caribe (Playa Hermosa)
@Passion for Peaches Yup. This was a disaster in the making for decades. A drive through US 50 made this clear.
Jeff (Louisville, KY)
Conservation ... boy that Jimmy Carter was way ahead of his time. Consistently amazed at folks inclination to prioritize the short term rather than long term. Like a pinball just bouncing from side to side. Our country is one giant Marshmallow Experiment gone awry. What have we done to this poor Earth?
John Tollefson (Banks Mtn NC)
Too bad it is California and not Florida the Supreme Courtthat are burning. After all, they are responsible for Bush the lesser being appointed President over Al Gore. Hopeful that hurricanes correct this.
Jerimiah Johnson (Mountains)
@Jeff That's why the regressive Republicans hate Carter. They are backwards thinkers while he was forward thinking,
CA Girl (West Coast)
@Jeff The planet will be just fine! Turns out that all our trash and pollution will end up as a thin line in the rock history written in the Grand Canyon. True story, and actually made me feel much better. Remember, the dinosaurs were on this earth much, much longer than us humans. Climate change is real, and most humans will not survive. Darwin was so right.
Twg (NV)
I don't have too much sympathy for the wealthy who fled SF and Sacramento because of covid19 – buying houses in the Tahoe region where a typical price starts close to $1million then up – because they will have somewhere they can go. (Tahoe is so over-developed it's just painful to look at sometimes. And it certainly exacerbates the whole problem of metro development pressing up against wilderness areas.) My sympathy lies with the small shop owners, and working folks who have few options and with those who have been burned out of their homes and have no other resource. Hundreds of people displaced, livelihoods being ruined. The larger resorts in the Tahoe Basin region will probably survive this season, but repeated hits to the basin's economy because of worsening wildfires and longer seasons will inevitable have a more serious longer term impact. That's true for the whole Tahoe-Carson City-Reno area. The smoke is horrible. We've had hazardous air quality for days on end. And there are few studies on the longer term effects of wildfire smoke on peoples' health. The smoke from all the fires in this region Dixie :750,000 acres & only 46% contained (probably power grid equipment failure), Tamarack: 68,000 acres 82% contained (lightening strike), Caldor: 144,000 acres 12% contained (under investigation) is funneling across to other states too. I'm also increasingly worried about water pollution from all the fires. Some days it rains ash.
Austin S. (Reno)
A little frustrating that this article chose to focus on individuals with the means to leave the area who have not called Tahoe and the surrounding area home before COVID. I appreciated the interview with the Reno local, but once again, it appears as if the NYT only finds a story if wealthy tech workers are involved. The smoke has been in this area for over two months, and the national media just now decides to cover it once "transplants" are affected.
Katie Gardner (Manhattan)
I completely agree. I visit the area twice yearly to see my many friends who are long term residents of the area and am surprised that the perspective of people like them is entirely ignored.
Hugh (Los Angeles)
Take a moment to think of asthmatic children caught in this nightmare before you express thinly-veiled glee that some wealthy folks are suffering, or before you write a holier-than-thou condemnation of our consumer society. Yes, we need to be better stewards of our planet. Yes, we need to control population growth. Most NY Times readers understand that, so spare us your virtue signalling. Because every one of us, even the Nissan Leaf drivers, and carbon-offset tree-planting jet passengers, and turners of winter thermostats to 66, and solar-panal users, everyone has still contributed something to the problem. So vote for politicians promoting green policies, and contribute to organizations that do the same. And give to organizations that work to enable women everywhere to make their own reproductive choices.
Donna (PA)
The wealthy outrun these climate crises. The average person, not so much.
tony shuga (austin tx)
why no aqi numbers? seems lke a glaring omission
Tom (Cupertino, CA)
@tony shuga South Lake Tahoe has seen AQI numbers up to 700 at times.
Patrick (CA)
@tony shuga It was 400-700 for about a week; now around 200-250 @ South Lake Tahoe.
Chris (L.A.)
While I feel sorry for the people who live there, spare a thought for all the wildlife that perishes in these fires.
LRS (Alexandria VA)
I have seen so few stories about wildlife perishing that’s almost as if they don’t exist or we don’t care. Saw a recent story of a deer collapsing ahead of flames to die, and another about a small bear cub who had been found clinging to the base of a large tree with some burns who then got rescued and treated, plus a story about some bears cooling off in Lake Tahoe from the heat wave a few weeks ago (when the air was still clear), but that’s about it. There was far more coverage of koala bears being rescued or perishing in Australia’s fires a couple years ago than any wildlife in US this summer impacted by all these fires. Don’t we care?
Kate (CT)
This is my biggest concern, frankly. While the smoke may contain toxins humans can mask themselves against, nothing else is safe. Nothing. And when the smoke clears, we take our masks off and there’s nothing left. This is horrific.
Luz (California)
It is sad that front page reporting about climate change and the people who it affects often focuses on the wealthy. So, you wasted these resources to inform me how the people who have the means to escape other national emergencies are being affected by smoke? Send me a note when you got something more profound to report, so I can bother to read it.
Tom Q (Minneapolis, MN)
No matter where you move or where you currently live, climate change is impacting your life. If it isn't smoke, it is the fire itself. If it isn't heat, it is the flooding. If it isn't the flooding, it is the lack of rainfall. We're suffering from dirty air and too much or too little water. For many people, their bodies can no longer effectively cool off at night. And hurricane season is just cranking into high mode. And against that backdrop, our elected officials debate the wisdom of proven science against Covid-19 and suggest taking horse de-worming pills as a possible cure. Tom Clancy once said that in writing fiction, it had to make sense. He could never write anything like we are experiencing today.
Jake (Texas)
in 5 years will there be any woods available for wildfires in California?
Cody (British Columbia)
@Jake Exactly; same with Oregon, Washington, and B.C. If five of the next ten fire seasons are as bad as the worst seasons of the past decade, which appears likely at this point, and if at the same time we keep devoting the same amount of insufficient resources to fighting them (with authorities each time citing an "unprecedented" season as if we all just forgot about the past decade), then there won't be many forests left in Cascadia at all.
Yaj (NYC)
I'm sure Mark Z, on his powered surf board, can wrangle the fires around the lake, to the tune of "West Virginia" something.
Birdie (California)
@Pat You make a good point. There’s plenty of space in other states for people to migrate to. But here in California there’s a huge political push (likely soon to be required) to built more and more “below market rate” houses—anywhere and everywhere, even though the state is already groaning from over population, drought, water depletion, a decrepit and unreliable energy source, and fires everywhere. Idiotic!
Patrick (CA)
@Birdie The lack of affordable housing is a huge problem in many parts of CA (and some other states). Are you suggesting we should just require people to move out of those places rather than try to build more affordable housing? The "anywhere and everywhere" comment sounds like nimbyism.
S_G (CA)
I hope it succeeds and allows this born and raised CA dad to buy a modest 1000 sq ft townhouse for something less than 800k here in the Bay Area.
Cary (Oregon)
We've had a similar surge in housing values here in Bend. Prices have increased 30-50% in the last year as we are seen (correctly!) as a great small town with excellent cultural and outdoor attractions. But I'm waiting to see how that surging demand is affected by the wildfire smoke, which has become a near constant every year from July until at least September. And then there are those controlled burns, a necessity that can ruin an otherwise fine April day. And I'm even wondering if I want to live here, given that my outdoor activities -- a key reason for moving here -- are now so difficult to enjoy during much of the summer.
PADavis (San Francisco)
There's absolutely no doubt that climate change will continue to exacerbate California's wildfire problem. While it may be old hat to point out that wildfires have been an integral part of California's climate for thousands of years, it bears repeating that the combination of a warming earth along with the expansion of populations living in areas of the state that have traditionally and regularly burned will account for more devastating fire seasons like the ones we've encountered over the last decade. One thing California can do to mitigate the ongoing danger is to consult directly with their indigenous communities to find ways to systematically and safely undertake preventative burns in high fire prone areas on a rotating basis. Indigenous Californians have curated the land with carefully managed fires for centuries. It's time to use that knowledge to save the state from further damage.
H. (Oregon)
@PADavis I agree, but I also wonder how much of that indigenous knowledge is intact. This is an era of language extinction, a cornerstone of most cultures. Why would we assume that other types of cultural knowledge survive, especially when certain practices have not been practiced for generations? There's some kind of magical thinking going on here. White people stole their land and put their children in boarding schools to specifically stop the transmission of indigenous knowledge. Hundreds of years later we need that knowledge and we assume it is magically still available and free for the taking? Not to say that indigenous people aren't resilient. However, something as specific as how to manage land with fire is the kind of cultural practice that could go extinct in one generation without the ability to transmit or actually practice the skill.
Tom Goff (Carmichael, CA)
@PADavis I hope so, if only the flammable material hasn't thickened beyond all remedy.
Scott (Talent, OR)
You have a romanticized and unrealistic view of how indigenous peoples “managed” the land in the past, and what they can do now. We like to think indigenous peoples have always lived in harmony with the land but that in not entirely true. Early inhabitants in both the Americas and Australia wiped out all the large animals
Jeff (NY)
I lived in the Tahoe area for a few years in the early 2000s. It was like living in Paradise. Life eventually led me back East and now to Upstate NY, where I am often bemoaning the wet, humid weather and pining for the Sierra Nevada. But lately I am happy I no longer live out there. I always had a feeling while I was living there that as magical a place as it was, people were not supposed to live there. I firmly believe that, now. It is a place to visit, not to live. I'll take the wet, humid weather here if it means we are not running out of water and on fire. So sad for the folks who call that place home and with roots there. It was east for me to leave because I am from the East, and really had no deep roots there. It would have been so much harder if that paradise was truly my home.
Montalvo (Beaver Creek)
"It would have been so much harder if that paradise was truly my home." It wasn't for me! CA was my home for 74 years, born in Hollywood, worked in Silicon Valley and retired in Granite Bay in my dream home set amidst a flammable oak forest. We tolerated the constant threat of fires, the electrical outages, the hordes of illegal aliens, the homeless, the ridiculous taxes, the looney politicians, the disappearing homeowner's insurance and the traffic to enjoy a delightful climate, Now we achieve an even better climate and none of those annoyances. We spend our winters in Puerto Vallarta and our summers in Beaver Creek, CO. Life is good again!
Matty G (Salmon River Mountains)
"It's overlapping crisis". Indeed. Overlapping reasons as well. No simple answers with this mess WE'VE created. All of us. Human caused climate change coupled with the decade's long urbanization of wildlands. Wildlands that have evolved for millions of years to burn at lower intensity and higher frequency. The rotten cherry on top of all of this is our incredibly effective 100 year national campaign to put out every fire we can catch. Just log it. It may be a good soundbite for a politician, but we can't clear-cut our way out of this mess. Dead and down trees, 15 ft high brush fields, dense forest grass that hasn't burned in decades, so much so that the cows and sheep can't keep up. We have already logged the vast majority of old growth in North America anyhow. A good start would be moratoriums on growth in the wildland-urban interface (good luck with that), a massive federal and State investment in the infrastructure, to facilitate a monumental increase in thinning projects, which don't require the removal of the last intact old growth and old forest basins. A modern-day Civilian Conservation Corps. Good pay, food, and housing for a legion of workers completing this task, which would take decades. Finally, a moon-shot increase in prescribed fire programs, eventually replacing fire suppression as tactic number 1. The talent and science exist to pull it off, but the institutional and political does not. Signed a former hotshot (5 years) and smokejumper (5 years).
Tom Goff (Carmichael, CA)
@Matty G Expert comment, without a doubt.
@Matty G You are so right about the institutional and political inability to do the right thing. Even Gov Newsom has defended housing development in fire zones as part of the California experience. I guess part of that experience is now watching your house burn and ruining the lungs of all your neighbors.
Nick (Montreal)
@Matty G Brilliant deconstruction of all the stupidities, both historical and ongoing. Getting out of this mess we've created would require 100,000 Matty Gs (maybe more but I'll have to check the current state of human cloning programs), an unlimited budget, and a license to eliminate anyone who gets in their way.
paul (White Plains, NY)
Sure, global warming is the major cause of these wildfires and their devastating results. But California and the Democrats that have been calling the shots from Sacramento forever have a lot of blame to bear for the lack of responsible forest management practices that have exacerbated the intensity and destructiveness of every major fire. The environmental lobby in California is all powerful, and it has prevented the state forest lands from being routinely cleared of underbrush, dead fall, and all the other forest floor detrius that provides most of the fuel for wildfires to get quickly out of control. Visit any forest in Germany, and you can practically eat off the forest floor. Visit any forest floor in California and you will see why any fire, once started, has all the fuel it needs to burn hot and long, even before the trees are consumed. This is what happens when over zealous environmentalists prevent the needed clearing of the forest floor, usually in the name of some sparsely populated animal or bird about to go on endangered species list.
Tom Goff (Carmichael, CA)
@paul Yes, but we should have respected the birds and animals whose habitats are the forests. There was a time when some balance could have been struck.
Tobias (San Francisco)
@paul Check your facts before you rant. The majority of forest lands in California are federal.
JGW (Nevada)
@paul 80% of the forest land in California is Federal. But sure blame it on the Democrats No matter whose in power in the state of California, The U.S. Forestry Service is responsible for the maintenance. Talk to your Republican representatives. Oh wait, I see you live don't live anywhere near California. Also, you assume all fires are on the ground. The fires can also be "Canopy" fires. Meaning spreading from tree top to tree top. No amount of floor cleaning can do anything about. Maybe spend sometime understanding the complexity of forest fires. They don't care what your political persuasion. And yes, I live in a fire prone area, Lake Tahoe.
Gaylel (Kingsport, Tennessee)
Overpopulation has brought us these fires as too many people chase too few resources. Overpopulation has also brought us novel viruses as people push up against nature and viruses jump from one species to another.
M Johnson (San Diego)
Just drove from the Canadian border to San Diego. Two things were constant in rural Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and California: choking smoke and Trump signs. In this America Trump is still president and climate change is a hoax. The West is a fantasyland indeed.
Pat (Ohio)
Historically people migrate when environmental crisis makes their home uninhabitable. People should look at Northeast Ohio where we have plenty of water, no earthquakes to speak of, affordable housing. People need to relocate; now with working remotely people should seriously rethink where they live.
Me (NJ)
@Pat we know of people out west considering new places to live, including Ohio. Seems like a good idea. On the other hand, welcoming people is not just a nice gesture, it's an invitation for housing prices to skyrocket which happens quickly and carries a whole set of other problems.
Kate (S E Pennsylvania)
Careful what you wish for because you may just get it. Check out the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains. Housing and rentals were once affordable, not so much anymore. Private gated communities with private clubs where housing starts at $750k are the exclusive new thing. In more urban areas of the state like Philadelphia and surrounds, gentrification has taken hold all over the city. Former blue collar working class areas with affordable houses and services have been overrun with younger, weathier millenials who want and get zoning changes and boutique restaurants. They don't care about the neighborhoods, traditions or people. A three story, updated 100 year old row home, now called a townhouse, costs $400,000. Well beyond the reach of the many. The low income areas of the city are even harder hit, flippers and investors buy houses for cash and the sellers think they've hit the jackpot until they try to find a place a live when no affordable housing is being built. The flippers and investors are turning multi-family units into single family McMansions and further reducing available housing. As an area increases in popularity the Airbnb folks start the inevitable spread of the temporary rental market that dramatically changes neighborhoods. Where to go indeed.
Steve G. (Los Angeles)
@Pat - I'm on my way. Born in Cleveland and grew up in Rocky River, OH. I was back there for my 50th high school reunion. August 2019. I loved it. The other day here in Los Angeles I said to myself, "I'd love to step out into snow." I'm reading these stories and I'm praying, "Just another rain season." If we got 5 more rainy years out of the next ten, that would take me to 80 years old. Just enough to almost get to the finish line. How's the pizza in Northeast, OH?
fullkeel (portland maine)
"...but there's nowhere to go to escape this." Actually northern New England has abundant land, water, natural beauty, skiing....oh but that's right, they can't take the winters! (You gotta love our winters.)
Susan (Manhattan)
@fullkeel seeing what has been done to their land, why would you tell them about yours? you really want their population and sprawl?
Pete in Downtown (back in town)
I wonder what the relevant numbers for smog and air pollution are for that area. Yes, the smoke is clearly visible, but what particle sizes are involved, and what else is in the air that people breathe in, both there and in other areas affected by these fires. Not too long ago, we had hazy skies here on the East Coast (!) due to particles carried all the way from the West Coast; I can only imagine what it's like right there. As for the causes: in addition to what- or whoever starts these fires, our approach to managing forests and forest density really needs a serious re-evaluation. This is clearly not working.
L Wolf (Tahoe)
@Pete in Downtown Check PurpleAir online - you can see sensors in your own area or anywhere in the country. We're checking it multiple times a day.
vicki farrar (New Mexico)
@Pete in Downtown The aridity, lack of sufficient winter snow pack, the increase in bark beetle devastation have been killing the trees for a few decades. There are millions of acres with dead and dying trees in the west. You who live in the Midwest or East have so much more water, rain, etc. and your forests are green and difficult to burn. These trees in the west burn so easily and the dry hot winds push the fires up the canyons and mountain tops. To cut down millions of acres of dead trees costs billions and federal and state agencies have not had the budget to do enough mitigation near developed areas and towns. The other problem is over-development in these forested areas where the wild-land interface is not properly cleared by land owners using recommended Firewise recommendations. No, sir, we do not "rake" the forests in the West, but we do love these forested areas to death and we as a Nation have not grasped the significance of climate change on our earth nor have we provided the Dept. of Agriculture with a budget large enough to mitigate even slightly for the climate disaster facing us. We've been so busy spending trillions on wars and giving our wealthiest corporations a pass on paying their fair share of taxes to provide and maintain our infrastructure.
Sendero Caribe (Playa Hermosa)
The fire is moving east up Hwy 50. I gather from other outlets, that the firefighters plan to make their stand at Echo Summit-a big piece of exposed granite that is a gateway to the Tahoe Basin. The firefighters have plenty of resources and decent weather, so hopefully, all we will have to complain about is smoke, instead of fire.
Susan (Carson Ciity, NV)
@Sendero Caribe Desolation Wilderness could provide a fire break if the fire moves to the northeast. However, south of Highway 50 at Echo Summit there is dense forest that could be a path for the fire into the Basin.
sdavidc9 (Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut)
The individual solution to climate change is to acquire enough money to afford to live in places least affected by it. One way to make such money is to deal with people who do not believe in climate change, because they will buy property whose value is threatened by the change. To keep such people more plentiful and to do business with them, it is best to pretend not to believe in climate change.
Leigh- (VA)
@sdavidc9 Sarcasm? There is no individual solution.
paul (White Plains, NY)
@sdavidc9 A prime example of the convoluted logic of the typical northeast liberal. Always preaching what others should do, but also always ready, willing and able to feed off of the taxes of those they wish to control.
LRS (Alexandria VA)
@paul Last time I checked White Plains NY was in the northeast.
Clare (Sparks)
It's all fine and well for those who have come to Tahoe and the Reno/Sparks area to "escape" COVID. But they are making it difficult for the people who have been here to live in general. The fires for the last two years have made the summer intolerable and awful. There is nowhere to move since climate change is effecting the entire world but it is possible to go somewhere affordable without smoke. That seems to be the long-term plans of locals I know, including myself. The smoke is just the icing on the cake.
Pissqua, 528 ft from CZU complex fire lightning strike (County of Santa Cruz, Calif.)
I was practically borned there between where the map shows Emerald Bay (With the little volcanic spit of an island in the middle), and fallen leaf Lake, specifically One click south of a 45 minute hike up an old loggers trail to Cascade lake; This is where my dad built a cabin (Lincoln log style kit, hardware & caulking, but windows not included, $2K, delivered) when I was zero, working — yes I know — three jobs, some 2/3 of a century ago. I started losing interest in this Idealic corner of the lake Tahoe basin when my favorite beaches — the one with the golden orange sands became overrun no, desecrated, with tourists (A.k.a. Baldwin beach) just an hour’s walk from this cabin in the woods (I drove) . I am now living near another fire zone but doing OK — luckier than peoples in this article, smoke doesn’t bother me.
John C (USA)
I wonder how capitalism is going to fix this
Michael Burley (South Lake Tahoe)
How do you list the reasons for wildfire and not list a century of fire suppression? Every article the times writes about fire skips this crucial element of why these fires are so bad.
Matty G (Salmon River Mountains)
@Michael Burley Or at least one of the reasons.
Fred Armstrong (Seattle WA)
No more camp fires, please.
John (California)
@Fred Armstrong Pretty sure that won't solve the problem
LRS (Alexandria VA)
But was it started by a campfire or lightning strike, or a high charge utility line? It’s ways past time all these utility lines got buried and campfires banned in dry areas, but not much you can do about lightning strikes.
Tim Clair (Maryland)
A lot of damage from a “Chinese hoax”. Republicans are responsible for these increasing tragedies of climate change.
Sendero Caribe (Playa Hermosa)
@Tim Clair LOL.
paul (White Plains, NY)
@Tim Clair The last I looked, Democrats control the Congress, and a Democrat has occupied the White House for 9 of the last 13 years. Not to mention that California has been 100% controlled by Democrats for decades, yet fires are increasing there at an alarming rate.
Bonnie T. (Texas)
This is both unfortunate as well as entirely predictable, as anyone who lived through similar circumstances in San Francisco last year – myself included – can attest. Suffocating levels of wildfire-source smoke are horrible, and yet they'll remain the de facto new normal throughout much of the American West until its massive drought finally subsides – and as of yet there's zero timeline for that happenstance – plus state & federal officials devise better means of mitigating wildfires, including burying all PG&E electric cable in or near forest lands as well as keeping levels of combustible fallen leaves & limbs in much better check.
@Bonnie T. How many multiples of your current electric bill are you willing to tolerate so that PG&E cables can be buried?
Robert Weisbrod (Salida Colorado)
Wonder how many of the Uber wealthy in the Lake Tahoe area have hired private firefighters?
LRS (Alexandria VA)
I think they meant the wealthy should be able pay to hire additional fire fighters to contribute to fighting the fires in the area, not hire firefighters to only save their property although doing so might also help save other properties. But these areas really could use full size firefighting forces the size of those in big cities given the dryness - and if the only way to afford to do it is to get the wealthy living there to help pay the bulk of it, then they should - or move out and tear down their homes to return the land to nature. Way more zoning on where to build or not build is needed out west.
Allison (California)
The forests are FEDERAL land, meaning it does not matter who runs California but national policy choices dictate forest management.
Becky (LA)
Not everything is political.
Martin (Exeter, U.K.)
Election cycles in the USA never end. Ever. How can you address the long term when every day someone needs to “win” the daily news cycle?
Steve Beck (Middlebury, VT)
My son and his family relocated from Pasadena to Boston earlier this summer. He said in a Skype conversation that 2020 was the year from hell. The ongoing drought, the pandemic, and the Bobcat Fire just a few miles from them in the San Gabriel Mountains burned for over three months. That fire started on 9.5.20, the day his second child was born, and the high temperature that day was 113F. Of course, I will miss visiting them in February to escape a VT winter, but the quality of life and your health are things to be concerned about.
smilecalm (NCal)
The Tahoe area and it's smoke is quite sad. I've been breathing smoke here in NCal for the last couple months. I'm trying to remember what the plan is for the US, when large regions, such as the entire West, no longer have enough water for basic needs. Wonder if anyone knows the plan, cause there is no moisture in the ground and one more winter without rain could mean mass migration.
LRS (Alexandria VA)
Never mind the reports that the Colorado river won’t have enough water for California in the near future because it’s running so low and places upstream will get water first. Better also get those almond farmers to switch to crops that need far less water before they pump every last drop of underground water out of the aquifers - parts of the state are sinking from the loss of that water.
Herschel (MN)
The California and Canadian fires are significant contributors to global warming. The Northwest has had the worst air pollution on the planet for past month. Our governments should expend what ever it costs to properly manage these forest fires. If there are 500 planes fighting the Dixie fire, then that is obviously not enough and they should find 4,500 more so that there are 5,000 planes fighting it. If there are 5,000 firefighters being paid $20 an hour, then there should be 50,000 being paid $100 an hour. A good way to get California to manage there forests might be by lawsuits from downwind states.
John (California)
@Herschel most of the forests are under federal jurisdiction. This is a worldwide issue, one that is creeping in on Minnesota as well (didn't you all have some huge fires just to the north this year?).
Matty G (Salmon River Mountains)
@Herschel The U.S.A. is currently at planning level 5. (National Inter- Agency Fire Center). There are big nasty fires all over the West and only so many resources available. There simply are no more planes to find. There are no more fire-fighters. They are trying to hire as many as they can. $15 is the starting wage plus additional hazards pay if you are on an actual fire, and over-time. Point is, we're tapped out. An 800,000 acre fire with a 500 mile perimeter burning through timber, leveling entire towns is ridiculously complex to manage, requiring thousands of resources and tens of millions of dollars, and that is just the Dixie fire. This is a generational problem that cannot be fixed overnight.
Cody (British Columbia)
@Herschel I could not agree more. Here in B.C. this is so far our third worst fire season on record. 2017 and 2018 were the worst (August 2018 not a single day without extremely thick smoke where I live in the interior). The firefighting resources are of course stretched thin but the authorities keep citing an "unprecedented" fire season. It is not in fact unprecedented in light of a whole decade of increasingly horrendous fire seasons in B.C. and the west in general. When 5 of the next 10 fire seasons are equally bad or worse, which appears extremely likely at this point, are they going to keep battling them with miniscule resources and citing "unprecedented" conditions? After 5 more such seasons there simply won't be many forests left in this part of the world. To say nothing of parts of Europe and, particularly alarming, Siberia, which have never before dealt with extreme wildfires. Exactly as you said, we need to multiply our firefighting (including mitigation such as controlled burns etc) budget by at least ten unless we want to lose our forests. This would be the case regardless of whether these fires were threatening rural communities or putting structures in immediate danger (obviously the fact that they are makes it more urgent). Due to increasingly extreme/dry conditions, it is impossible to continue with policies of letting remote fires simply burn until they die out or present a threat to populated areas.
v (this endangered planet)
All this has been foreseen for quite some years now but peoples all over the world wanted more of nearly everything that meant lots of methane and carbon release into the atmosphere, humongous trash dumps, plastics forming their own islands and causing wildlife to starve, and habitat loss because of massive contagion and pollution of our natural resources. We could have required companies to develop fully recyclable or naturally compostable containers for short shelf life products.Packaging could have been restricted. We could have invested in clean electric power much sooner and adopted electric clean modes of transportation much sooner. We could have done a lot of things but we did not. This isn't about too many people in the WUI, or careless individuals starting fires ,or even just too many people; it's about the choices we all made to put off inconveniences yesterday.
Rob (New York City)
Back in August of 2016 I flew to Lewiston Idaho to meet a group for a rafting trip down Hell's Canyon. There were terrible fires in Idaho that year and the smoke in Lewiston was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Pea soup thick, completely blocking out the sun. It permeated everything. I woke up several times during the night in my hotel room gasping for air and with a sore throat. Fortunately a front came through and blew all the smoke out of Hell's Canyon the first day of our trip. We got incredibly lucky, but I feel so sorry for people who have nowhere to go and have to live in these conditions. It's a nightmare.
Gretna Bear (17042)
Ironic, government funded firefighters continue their exposure to "carbon monoxide (CO), respirable dust (PM4) and crystalline silica (SiO2)," to protect property of those who can leave!
John Tollefson (Banks Mtn NC)
If humans would stop breathing the fires and smoke would stop.
The California lifestyle is now a compendium of Smoke and mirrors of the past.
JGW (Nevada)
@ARETE’ what are you talking about?
Judgeboyajian10 (Fishkill)
You mean you didn’t follow the advice of the greatest botanical mind in history, Trump, and get out there and just rake a few leaves.
scientella (palo alto)
I was in Sydney during the 2019 horrendous fires there. It was like this every day. Survival depended upon how closely you could seal your apartment. We lived with closed doors every day until 5pm, when the wind would change and come from the ocean. Then we would open up the windows and let in less smoky air, spend an hour after that with the filters running, then exist within the stuffy apartment with the windows closed again. All of life within a few rooms. Now, with the pandemic apartment living is less attractive of course. Its about taking the stairs and avoiding the common areas, and sealing the vents to the ventilation shafts. We are all preppers now.
Tork (Lake Tahoe)
We left Carson City for the Bay area to escape the suffocating smoke for a couple of days this week. We were not able to take our usual route (highway 50) and had to take I-80 through Reno instead. There was thick smoke and ash there and back. Now we're back in it but it was still nice to get out of the smoke for a while.
Niall (3rd Stone from the Sun)
As I look out my window at the smoky haze, I recall being trapped inside for much of August and September, 2020 due to the incessant smoke in Northern California. Here we are again. Better than 50 years in California and I don't remember a single time where we had so much lingering smoke in August for 2 years in a row.
Paul (Boston area)
The Tahoe Basin has been overdeveloped for years. IMO having skyscraper casinos abutting the late (Stateline, NV) is a travesty. The Basin has been overpopulated and overdeveloped, and when natural phenomena like this occur, we will realize the disaster of what we have done to the region.
Matt (Tahoe)
You know there has been a building moratorium in tahoe for the last few decades. There is a current lift on it for affordable housing is the only changes. Every popular destinations gets tons of visitors and it has nothing to do with the current wildfire issue. Maybe stay on point and be realistic about areas in National Forests that the country loves and supports.
Michael Burley (South Lake Tahoe)
By that logic every city in the world is overdeveloped. By modern standards the whole San Francisco bay should be a national park as well, who’s complaining about the travesty of sprawl there? People have to live somewhere and managing their impacts is more crucial than complaining about where things have been built.
Jeff (California)
@Paul: The fire affecting Lake Tahoe is not at Lake Tahoe. It is significantly west of Lake Tahoe but the wind is driving the smoke to the lake. The development of Lake Tahoe has no connection to the fire, which is burning in a wilderness area west of lake Tahoe. But I do thank you for leaving the state in order to make it better for the rest of us.
markd (michigan)
It's reverse migration time. When the Dust Bowl 1930's trashed the mid-west everyone headed West to the promised land. And they kept on coming. With climate change I don't see things getting better. Maybe the chaotic weather will bring rain again but maybe not. Time to head back east. Here in Michigan there are no fires, very little smoke that hasn't drifted in from Oregon and California unlimited fresh water and cheap property and plenty of jobs. They were Okies in the 30's, maybe there will be Cakies or Orkies now.
Flaneuse (DC)
@markd I think about that a lot. But will people learn from the past, and not simply trash the next place that receives the influx of mass migration? “...the oldest task in human history [is] to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.” - Aldo Leopold
fullkeel (portland maine)
@markd I said essentially the same thing about northern New England - abundant land, water, natural beauty, skiing - but my post was apparently too snarky to pass muster (although way worse seems to be OK if it pertains to the culture wars). But the dread of the northern winter just has too great a hold on the American masses, who seem to prefer the air conditioned life.
David R (NYC)
Astonishing that the corporate world doesn't seem to be waking up to the facts that 1) their bottom line is about to be strongly affected (especially if they are insurance companies) and 2) they are in a position to make the most massive changes the most quickly.
Carl O. (Trumbull, CT)
@David R Insurance companies will never suffer, the policy holders will…
trudds (sierra madre, CA)
If only there was a way to NOT to have to try and live in a bubble so that the problems of the hoi polloi weren't intruding on our comforts. Something like serious efforts to fix the problems that we all actually share. Just a thought.
Level Head (NJ)
I was at the lake the week of Aug-14. There was Dixie fire smoke when I first arrived, then the Caldor fire erupted and made it worse. The winds did shift Thursday, Sep-19, and the lake area was clear of smoke that day. Not sure if there will be another clear day like that now until October.
alcatraz (berkeley)
Lake Tahoe became an "exurb" for folks who thought they could simply escape the difficulties of the rest of the world. Perhaps people will now open their minds to the realities of climate change, trade in their big trucks and SUVs for solar panels and join the rest of us in working to develop policy to reduce greenhouse emissions and create green jobs.
Dave Brown (Sonoma County CA)
@alcatraz It's ironic, since a lot of those escapees left the Bay Area, which had horrific air quality last year, but this year (so far – wait for Diablo wind season) has been surprisingly good.
gloria (Mukilteo, WA)
People: Look to your elected leaders for truth and answers. Someone could call out the national guard, army and fire and rescue state workers to stop the fires, build the necessary underground utility system and even plant new trees. Plus stop burning methane into our atmosphere among other good uses of military/government personnel. Everyone who works for the government should be handed a shovel and hard-hat and tamp until they start working for us the way they were voted on to do! If we don't report for duty, how can we survive, or our progeny continue?
dave (n. durham, nh)
Trouble in Paradise. All this going on, and each year you see more and more people going into stores with their cars running, sitting in parking lots with their cars running, staring at their rectangles. Here in New Hampshire it's the State Pastime- go to Walmart, leave your car running (no babies, no dog) with the ac or heater running, and go shopping for an hour. The fact that this practice has been on the rise at the same time as climate change awareness has risen is proof that we will be in for a very hard time. IE- as things heat up, what do we do?- well, produce even more heat of course. Environmental disasters should be absolutely no surprise to anyone at this point; it they are, you've been sleeping under a rock for the past 50 years.
LG (Westchester)
@dave really?? That is hard to believe in this day and age. As a side note, are they concerned that someone might steal the car?
Dman (California)
This practice is very common here on the opposite coast as well. And in my town the skies are clear and the weather is usually good enough to sit in your car comfortably with no AC or heat, engine off. But I see people parked for an hour outside my house staring at their screens, engine purring away, idle speed occasionally increasing as the AC kicks in. We actually have a no idling ordinance at least around schools, ignored and rarely enforced.
Scott (Talent, OR)
Just watch—with the insane demand and prices for cars these days, I’ll bet we will see theft on the rise.
W.B. (WA)
No one deserves a right to pollute- yet by pricing carbon at practically nothing, it has reduced the value of everything to practically nothing. We have accepted pollution as a way of life if not a constitutional right. We have allowed industry and the public ride roughshod over every concept of sustainability. Our road system amounts to an excuse to simply continue churning through resources. We have built and are building nothing worth preserving.
coale johnson (5000 horseshoe meadow road)
This is just a mini lesson. That lesson is? There is no place to escape climate change. People living amidst hardwood forests in the east and people living in the forest along our northern border may take a little longer to experience what California is going through but it will happen. What I worry about is that if people think they can escape climate change for a decade maybe two decades that they feel they won’t have to change their way of living or sacrifice anything in the effort to stave off total disaster.
SbJim (Santa Barbara)
We had reservations at Emerald Bay next week and cancelled a couple of days ago. I imagine most camp sites are covered with ash.
Dan (NV)
@SbJim Actually most of the forests and campsites on both the CA and NV side are closed. That was a smart move to defer coming to Tahoe.
Dom (California)
On another note, Airbnb is giving no restitution to the air quality issue. They have maintained the strict cancellation policies set by hosts and are in no way applying their "extenuating circumstances" policy to override these strict policies. It's a bit surprising because when you communicate with their support teams they state that Lake Tahoe is not registering as "affected" by the wild fires and that it does not even warrant an internal review. When you look at the readings and see articles like this, it really suggests that their teams are not trained to consider circumstances outside protocol and to actually critically think about the situation. Very disappointing, but not surprising...
Minnesota Native (Salt Lake City)
It’s not just Tahoe. Utah has been getting the smoke from across the west (including a few fires of our own) all summer. As an asthmatic, I feel like a prisoner in my own home. Every day I fantasize about moving, and every day I’m reminded that a single, middle-class woman pushing 50 would have a very difficult time starting over elsewhere. I have so much grief for our planet it’s overwhelming.
Katherine Ransel (Seattle)
@Minnesota Native I moved from Washington DC to Seattle when I was 46. Best thing I ever did. You have a lot of life left; use it.
Me (NJ)
@Minnesota Native you CAN do it! :)
Jeff (NV)
Living in Reno for 20+ years, and for the past month I start my day by asking Alexa "what is the air quality today," It has been "unhealthy" at best.
Mr. Basilico (St. Ralph)
Whatever the western forest will become, it is nowhere close yet. We're in a transition period and there are vast regions of sick and dying trees. Hiking on the Tahoe Rim Trail a few years back, I saw vistas to the north and east that were no longer the verdant scenes from even twenty years ago. Now they are blighted, maybe a third dead, another third dying. The oft-cited forest mismanagement may be responsible for some, but drought and beetles are doing much of the work. Maybe a more resilient western forest will grow here one day. But for now we will have to watch what we have burn.
Framboise Rouge (CA)
Things are moving toward extremes faster than expected. Out here in Berkeley the skies are orange in the early sun. The ecosystems are suffering. Is there not some was to cool the planet with technological means? Send a reflective dust of some sort into the atmosphere. Before the habitats are gone. Could a critical mass of people demand government action on this? I know that the people who moved to Tahoe to tech jobs from home are suffering and I feel bad for them. Maybe the east coast like Pennsylvania would have been a better plan with its abundant water. Meanwhile, we should demand that the government make an emergency program like the moon landing program to figure out a remedy. This is like a wartime emergency and something needs to be done.
CS (NorCal)
We just got back to NorCal from Corvallis, OR where we have a small rental house we are fixing up. On this trip, we met several couples and individuals from CA and AZ who were scoping out areas to move to along the OR and WA coast and Willamette Valley because of heat, drought, and fire at home. We're all becoming climate refugees.
John (California)
@CS Wasn't that area scorched by record-shattering heat, drought, and fires/smoke this summer as well? There is no place to flee. We need to face climate change and take action.
PfT (Oregon)
@CS Your comment is confusing given what happened in Corvallis, the Williamette Valley and the rest of OR and WA in September 2020 -- why would anyone want to relocate to the NW? Heat, drought, fire and smoke out here.
Don (Green Valley AZ)
@CS "to move to along the OR and WA coast" They should pick their new home carefully, when the Juan de Fuca rift zone lets loose, there is going to be one giant tsunami along that coast. And it is way over due. One could almost get the impression Mother Nature really has no fondness for Homo wandering Sapiens.
Paul King (USA)
"The crisis in Tahoe extends far beyond the smoke on the water and fire in the sky of one tourist attraction." I stopped reading after this line and just got into Deep Purple doing the tune. (that's "Smoke On The Water" kids) Amazing drums throughout the song. Lots of sad stories in the article. I've breathed my share of summer smoke. But, maybe less ink (pixels) on tales of woe and more on serious discussion of the biggest causes of CO2. Search Bill Gates and his excellent book on fighting climate change. Hint: saving the planet involves fundamental altering of buildings, transportation, electricity generation. We can still have nice lives. Just need to change some stuff. Doable. Show people solutions instead of catastrophe and change will follow. Start by turning out the lights. And, turning up Smoke On The Water.
Mike Mike (Manhattan)
The wealthy will just pick up and go to some other bucolic town, gentrify, and kick out the locals. It's the middle class and poorer I worry about.
Yoandel (Boston)
These last few weeks have been hard, with eye problems due to the smoke particles, the air filters often moving to the red, and with a persistent haze... and this is from... Boston! Thousands of miles away! Can't imagine how it is at ground zero The planet has been made sick by us and we need to fix our ways as our highest priority. There is indeed no place to hide when it is the atmosphere what is decaying as entire ecosystems literally burn.
R Koreman’s (North Of 49)
Forests aren’t natural but are man made. We killed off the last of the megafauna about 30 thousand years ago and since then the trees started taking over. The indigenous population controlled the forest by selecting species and slash burning but the settlers put an end to that. So what we have here is a situation that cannot be fixed with switching to a Tesla. I don’t think we will be releasing elephants and rhinoceroses anytime soon either so do the only thing you can. Grieve.
Kathy (SF)
The poor animals. I have a cat who has lung damage from pneumonia, and is on chemo for cancer. He is an indoor cat, of course, and I run two air purifiers in my small apartment when the air is smoky. When I had to take him to the vet during one of the fires that relatively brief exposure to the smoky air made him sicker than he has ever been. We complain about our own suffering, but what about the animals? They can't vote out the climate deniers and the greedy and cruel people who have created this and refuse to address it. Only we can.
Jennifer Keller (Kennewick, WA)
Why no coverage of the vast numbers of service workers and others who can’t just leave Tahoe to get to an alternate locale to avoid the smoke? I’m tired of these climate crisis stories that mostly include just examples of people affluent and mobile enough to move around. Like they want to show NYT readers what other potential NYT readers are facing. It misses everything about the scope and variety of the accumulating devastation and impact for people’s lives.
Teller (SF)
Climate change does not start fires. Lightning starts about 10% of them. The other 90% are human-caused. Sometimes arson or runaway campfires or flipped cigarettes. However, the bulk of forest fires occur because more and more people want to live in lovely rural areas. That means electric power needs to be brought in. High winds knock down power lines; fires start. Same with sparks from power tools used to build houses, clear brush, etc etc etc. Halting or reducing climate change will not stop seasonal dry conditions or fires. In the long run, it'd help shorten or 'lighten' our inevitable dry seasons. However, the fastest way to curb forest fires is to reduce our spread into rural areas - a more immediate and attainable solution.
Mr. Basilico (St. Ralph)
@Teller Climate change has increased the fuel available to burn. Bark beetles thrive in warmer climes.
Laura (Oregon)
@Teller So much of what you say is smacks of climate denier. Climate change produces changes in CLIMATE such as long droughts (season dry conditions), storms (lightning) in different locales. I agree the downed power lines (PG&E Camp Fire) can be classified as human caused. If you have other data to support your claim of "90% are human-caused" please provide it.
Teller (SF)
@Laura "As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by people, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, downed power lines, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson."
Kevin Greene (Spokane, WA)
Here in the Inland NW, we’re often downwind of wildfire smoke - sometimes from the Cascades, others from CA, even from MT. We had some of the worst air in the world for a time last summer. If you’ve A/C, HEPA filters & the ability to stay indoors, when the smoke hits, you ride it out. We’re all twisting in the wind in the West.
Herschel (MN)
If the California fires were blowing into San Fran, LA and San Diego would the state respond differently or expend more resources on fighting them? Perhaps then California would not act like that because the fires are caused by global warming there is nothing else they can do about it. Same if the Manitoba and Ontario fires burning in sparsely inhabited central Canada that blow into the US population center like Minneapolis were to instead be blow into Toronto and Montreal.
Sarah Gottschalk (Syracuse NY)
We moved out of California this summer for a number of reasons, mostly personal, but also because after ten years in the state it was obvious that between the fires and the droughts there’s not a sustainable way to support the current population.
Elizabeth Willars (Reno, NV)
In Reno for the past 7 years, we have had up to a week of smoke that’s thick and smelly. This year, we haven’t been outside since the week of the 4th of July! We are completely surrounded. Fist the Tamarack Complex, then the Dixie Fire, and now that that is starting to be controlled, we are inundated with smoke from the Calder Fire, so hazardous they’ve cancelled school several days the past week! I walk outside, and come in smelling like fire. Our cars are covered in ash. And we are in Reno!! The winds shifted so we finally reached the “unhealthy” range. On side note, and yes this is completely selfish, but hear me out. We were planning on making the Sierra Nevada Yarn Crawl Sept 16-19, which includes 9 local yarn shops around Lake Tahoe. We won’t be going in person, which is disappointing (and it’s a hard business to sell online, the consumer experience is tactile and community related), and I fear that this important event for the shops will take a drastic hit as people avoid Lake Tahoe! Not just the LYS, but all the businesses around Lake Tahoe that survive on summer travelers. How will that effect the economy in the region? And what if they don’t contain the fire before it reaches the Lake
Patrick (Sacramento)
@Elizabeth Willars everything you've said is true, and definitely sad. Yet, business has been booming in Tahoe since Covid started. Room rates, are at an all time high. Hopefully most businesses can manage the extra profits they've made over the past 1.5 years. Pray for rain!
Terry (So Cal)
@Elizabeth Willars We had planned to move to the Reno area last year but did not due to the pandemic. That location is now off our list of retirement places due to the regular smoke and fire hazards coming over from CA.
Jeff (California)
@Elizabeth Willars: The Caldor fire is about 15 miles west of Lake Tahoe. It is burning westward and not toward Lake Tahoe. But visiting Lake Tahoe at this time is highly irresponsible.
Lily (Reno)
How sobering and horrifying to read this in the New York Times; somehow that makes it even more real, more...inescapable. Kind of akin the proverbial frog who, after quasi- deluding myself as the water in the pot gets hotter and hotter, finally realizes it's boiling and it's too late to jump out. Long retired, grateful still to be healthy and fit, and just half an hour from the Lake, we normally spend the glorious summers hiking, kayaking and biking throughout the Tahoe basin. Bag Freel Peak, Tallac, Mt. Rose - among the most challenging and exhilarating - at least once each season. Drop a car at the far end of a 12, 14, even 20-mile stretch of the Tahoe Rim Trail in the early morning, and reach it by late afternoon, tired, but on a natural high that can last several days. Grateful we've had decades playing here in paradise, but how terribly sad that future generations won't have a chance. And all the more infuriating because it could have, should have, been foreseen and prevented.
Jeff (California)
@Lily Ask the Republicans in Congress why they refuse to allocate sufficient money to maintain our National Forests in order to reduce the fire hazard and size of our fires. Could it be that like Trump, they believe that the State of California is responsible for maintain the National Forests in a fire safe manner?
Christy White (Oakland)
@Lily It was foreseen. For 30 years. It was not prevented. Sadly.
Lake Monster (Lake Tahoe)
As they say, you can run but you can’t hide. There are fires all around, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada. Which way will the wind blow tomorrow? This summer however, I will say it feels a little like that game Battleship, with firebombs dropping all around us but no direct hit on the ship, fingers crossed. Two summers ago we didn’t have a single smoke day, not one. Right now have a perfect storm of drought, forest mismanagement, overcrowding, PG&E lack of line maintenance, stupid human tricks etc. The vast majority of these large fires are on Federal lands, US Forest Service lands. The Federal government must get its collective act together and get to work logging, thinning and properly maintaining these forest lands. It’s a generational call to action, and we’re late to the party. The main question is this: we are heating this planet up, do we have the collective will to overcome greed and ignorance to actually do anything about it?
John (California)
@Lake Monster the caldor fire exploded through an area that underwent extensive fuel reduction (I.e. logging) over the past 2 years. Didn't seem to make a difference
nerdrage (SF)
@Lake Monster The Forest service can't catch up with 100 years of fire suppression and they can't stop climate change, which is the real problem here. But maybe this will stop the runaway real estate costs in Tahoe, huh?
Pissqua, 528 ft from CZU complex fire lightning strike (County of Santa Cruz, Calif.)
Deer lake monster; in your litany of reasons for our current climate conditions leave out the “Tricks” part of the stupid human tricks statement e.g. just make it stupid humans!
Boof (Blue AZ)
Please don't come to Arizona—we don't need any more people. Besides, it's now 110+ with ozone alerts.
Linda Archambault (Connecticut)
I wonder if those wealthy people who fled to Lake Tahoe have considered how their jet-setter lifestyles have contributed to the climate change that is driving the increase in wildfires?
Jeff (California)
@Boof Darn! I was going to ask all those people coming to CA to go to AZ instead!
Ned (Truckee)
Most of what is burning is Federally owned land. Republican US District 4 Representative Tom McClintock has understated the threat for years, preferring to give tax breaks to corporations over funding preventative fire programs. He needs to be replaced in 2022 by someone with their eye on reality and the future instead of made-up ideological drivel.
Geoffrey Brooks (Reno NV)
@Ned Doug Amalfa is the District 1 representative for Truckee going North in the Sierra. He is a disbeliever in the warming world being a threat to his way (and his constituents) of life. Here the Dixie fire has wiped out historic mining towns, gravely impacted the health of many. Time for him to get on board with doing something to engage every citizen in the much-needed mitigation of GHG's. He can vote to pass HR2307 "Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act". This will place a price on Carbon (with a border adjustment) and lead to a reduction of 40% of GHG's in 10 years. Plus the not inconsequential health care savings, estimated at $50 Billion a year... Surely he wants everyone living in the Eastern Sierra to have clean air and water! The choking smoke from all the recent fires; Caldor, Dixie, and Tamarack, has closed schools, threatened everyone's health. Peering through your windows at the gloom gives one a glimpse of what a post-apocalyptic world will look like!
Anna (SF)
@Ned thanks for this. I was just wondering what preventative measures had been taken
JBB (San Francisco)
Republican “leaders not leaders” today seem more and more like a bizarre death cult.
nixrox03 (Midwest America)
Only the wealthy fled there.
tim s. (longmont)
“You can’t fool Mother Nature.”
AMC (San Mateo)
This IS climate change and what it looks like. Climate scientists have predicted increasingly intense wildfire seasons in the Western US for ages. If you have voted for a candidate for office in the last 20 years who said it was a lie or a liberal conspiracy, you are part of the problem. If you support news organizations that claim that science is too uncertain to justify action, that “libtards” (or some derivative thereof) are fearmongering without basis, you are part of the problem. This is America and you are entitled to your opinion, but your actions are not neutral in their impact. There will be economic opportunity in the efforts to adapt and mitigate, but we need to stop SUBISIDIZING the fossil fuel industry and level the playing field for renewables and energy efficient alternatives.
Leigh- (VA)
@AMC Well written! It is an amazing and horrifying fact that we continue to subsidizing the fossil fuel industry given that their product is destroying our planet.
Tim Clair (Maryland)
Thank you
David H (San Francisco)
Amazing—the number of us Americans who seem to believe, seriously, that there’s way to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint that doesn’t involve changing human behavior—that is, life-style, daily human behavior—that all we need to do is throw money at the problem, via this/that techno-fix. Howzabout we Americans—what would it take for us actually to consume less? Amazon—could it not make deliveries once a week? Could we not wait six days for our new whatchamacallit? I know. . . “It’s the economy, stupid!” Let suggest a rephrasing: It’s the stupid economy! If we don’t change it, we’re either toast or we’re soaked. And if we’re either toast or soaked, guess what?—No food. And no food means, among other things, no economy. Think big, America—and go small.
Ron Swanson (Pawnee)
@David H Solar, wind, storage replacing gas and coal for generation, and electrification of transportation and heating and you've got most of the way to carbon neutral without changing anyone's lifestyle. Amazon is pushing ahead with billions of dollars of electric delivery vehicles on that front
Flaneuse (DC)
@David H Perhaps Gandhi said it best, decades ago: “Live simply so that others may simply live.”
Just (an American)
@David H Yes yes yes yes!!! We must change our thinking and then immediately change our behaviour.
Anisette deGruen (New York)
This is the wurst thing that could happen. Lake Tahoe was always a place to escape from San Francisco and was not to far from Yosemite National Park, which was always beautiful. Now its a smoky mess, and at the high altitude, I would guess very hard to breathe. When will we smarten up and switch over to all NUCLEAR power? It does not warm the planet and is clean as long as people know what they are doing. We had only 1 or 2 issues in the US in 60 years, which is so much better than fossel fuel. The Japanese messed up at Fucishima, but that was because of a tidal wave, and the Russians screwed up at Chernobyl, but that was over 30 years ago and even they learned how to seal it up. I think if we went NUCLEAR for a few years, we could cool down the planet. Let's try it because I do NOT like all the heat and humidity, even tho I eat less and am loosing weight.
Hugh (Upstate NY)
@Anisette deGruen - by NUCLEAR it is clear you mean nuclear FISSION. Recent developments are likely to scare away many investors. The biggest is very recent advances in nuclear FUSION. The downside of that is it creates uncertainty about the state of power generation 10 years from now. This will concern investors looking at a 30 or 40 year ROI for a new nuclear fission plant. A smaller concern for investors (because it's more predictable) is the falling cost of wind turbine energy combined with being able to store excess energy in large batteries which are also falling in cost. All 3 forms all have a long delay before we "get there." But my guess is most investment money is going into wind turbine R&D and construction and battery R&D. Point is that it has to be more than a good idea. It has to be funded.
Drain67 (Los Angeles)
@Anisette deGruen It's amazing how nuclear power has been demonized when it presents a clean, clear way to generate carbon-free energy. It has its own issues, for sure, but when faced with the choice of certain destruction via global warming or the highly unlikely risk of a containable nuclear accident I'll go for the nuclear option. There's no way to go "all" nuclear but it should be part of any comprehensive energy strategy.
Lake Monster (Lake Tahoe)
@Anisette deGruen absolutely correct, scalable nuclear energy, it’s been in front of our face the whole time.
JVG (Vallejo, CA)
It may seem petty but every story I read about the devastation being caused by climate change, I cannot help but blame the Republican party that denied it's existence and blocked meaningful progress for decades. I live in northern California and also have had to deal with weeks of unbreathable air and rising temperatures. It didn't used to be like this. It didn't have to be like this. This was done on purpose by people who just didn't give a damn.
I left CA in anticipation of two impending events 3 years ago. The fire season in the State mushrooming, and the growing in State water shortage. It appears that I just made it.
Robert (Out West)
After all, Texas has had no weather or environmental problems this year. Certainly no abnormal freezes, storms or flooding.
Alain (USA)
@ARETE’ but you traded it for flooding and apparently a very broken 'independent' power grid - it's all one problem for another... until we tackle the climate change hands on.
Barnes (tacoma)
@ARETE’ California has been over populated with transplants for decades. It looks like some semblance of equilibrium is finally being restored.
IanC (Oregon)
Out here in Western Oregon, we experienced the same thing last year. It was terrifying in some very deep ways. This is coming for all of us and there is no escape. That said, this is what it will likely take for all of us to wake up, see what we have wrought, and make changes. Are you ready?
A. Raymond (San Francisco)
I used to think there were four seasons before moving to California. I have added a fifth to my vocabulary - fire season. Some things we can’t control - weather, mother nature. Some things will take a lot of effort and persuasion to alter - such as the course of climate change. However, there are things we can do short term. Mandate more fire proofing of buildings - there were pictures last year of houses burning but trees not burning right next to them -, restrict housing in wilderness areas, and either improve access or limit housing where there aren’t enough roads to evacuate people. Every year we have a shortage of fire fighters and equipment. Hire more and buy more equipment. They can do good work in the off season removing brush etc. Finally, require that PG&E bury all its wires. A significant number of fires are caused by their equipment.
nerdrage (SF)
@A. Raymond Houses burn while trees don't because houses are made of dead wood and trees are alive. In California (and other similar climates), the purpose of fire is to clear out the deadwood and turn it into ash that the living trees can derive nutrients from. That's how fire is positive for fire-adapted forests. Maybe houses can be built of concrete (in earthquake country?) but that won't fix millions of houses already built of wood. For PG&E to bury their wires will take many years and a lot of money. Won't happen overnight.
tony (mount vernon, wa)
@A. Raymond CA has always had four season's. Fire, Flood, Earth Quake, and Drought
Pissqua, 528 ft from CZU complex fire lightning strike (County of Santa Cruz, Calif.)
Dear nerdrade: concrete very permanent and a very expensive (especially when you even do it yourself) and until recently in the last 20 years I didn’t even think about it’s carbon impact.
Alan (San Rafael CA)
Large fires are nothing new to California. Having read decades of old newspapers I can say they have been a common and recurring matter. A Mediterranean climate all but guarantees summer fires. Since there are many more people and more structures and more news reporting they get far more attention. Social memory is short.
Cheryl H (CA)
Have there ever been this many at one time? We need to be honest with ourselves about what is causing this rash of disasters around the globe.
Yoandel (Boston)
@Alan if this were correct, given that Tahoe has been around for a few hundred years, you would see fires such as this as a recurrent pattern *in lake Tahoe*. The question is not whether there are fires, of course there are, and are even part of the ecosystems there. The question is whether so many fires and at this high intensity (when the often kill the very seeds that used to need fire to trigger germination) are normal. Of course not.
nerdrage (SF)
@Alan I've lived in California all my life and yes, there have been forest fires and droughts but not of this magnitude. It's climate change.
Just (an American)
I am so glad that my father, a 5th generation Californian, is not alive anymore to see all this. May he rest in peace.
Pissqua, 528 ft from CZU complex fire lightning strike (County of Santa Cruz, Calif.)
Dear Just, I’m glad that I WON’T be here in the next third of a century that I HAVE remaining until my pump gives out
tim (ca)
In the future, what will be the term for the people that have to leave their homes in California every year for three months because of wildfire smoke? Firebirds?
Yoandel (Boston)
@tim in the future the town will burn down, unlikely that anybody will return. Maybe they will be called survivors?
Jay (Mercer Island)
@tim Ha ha-the only comment here that made me laugh. I’m leaving now…
Haile (Boston, MA)
Too bad Pontiac is dead now. GM should have axed Buick instead...
Christian (Oakland)
I have no words to express the grief I feel. The loss of so many memories is astoundingly painful. It will be centuries for this forest to recover, if ever. I find it reprehensible that in the midst of the obvious damage to our natural world resulting from climate disruption, that a small group of ignorant hateful people are on the verge of successfully removing our fairly elected governor to install a right wing climate change science denier in this state. Please people, please please please vote no on the recall - we cannot expect to have a decent future if we allow a climate science denier to lead this state at this critical moment.
Onereasonableidea (Wilmington, NC)
Vote red, vote no climate change....more fires, drought and the resulting effects. People need to wake up. I am glad my state believes in climate change and is trying to preserve our planet.
Philip Cafaro (Fort Collins, CO)
People are ruining the world and want a safe haven from the damage they are inflicting on it. Not surprising that is not going to work.
Dontbelieveit (NJ)
For anybody who wants to understand what global warming and climate change mean, it is worth checking today's editorial on Greece in addition to this ominous piece. And the fire is "just one ridge away from the Tahoe basin..." (for now). And to read: "... Athens, streaked by smoke, could become Europe’s first uninhabitable capital city" is beyond comprehension. In the meantime, we keep busy killing each other, planning for the future, thinking what next to buy. No suggestions. There's nothing to do to fix this. The way things are now, if we continue burning fossil fuels temperatures rise. And if we stop the burning, the aerosol masking layer falls in days rising the temperature even faster. Such a beautiful planet of ours. Shame on us!
Marge Keller (Midwest)
"Just inhaling, he said, felt like a “sizable man is standing on my chest.” I cannot imagine what the effects of these continuous and fast-expanding wildfires are doing to the wildlife, aquatic life and avian life in these areas.
John Doe (Johnstown)
@Marge Keller, this is why animals should be allowed to vote. Better still, run for and hold office too. At least then their monkey business is legitimate.
Marge Keller (Midwest)
@John Doe That's almost as bad as saying if they could vote, then at least they'd have "some skin in the game." But if we lose our sense of humor, then we are in even worse trouble.
Gary (Taylor)
I have visited Tahoe maybe 20 times in my life, and I have usually found it to be a trashy place which honestly is not that pretty compared to other parts of the Sierras. Full of traffic, gamblers (I bet the casinos have filtered air), and low rent day trippers. How ironic that the escapees are now jumping in their cars (most likely gas guzzling SUVs) to drive far away and thereby contribute to the climate change behind the fires.
Suzanne (colorado)
I first visited Tahoe in the early 1950's. It was pristine and I thought the most beautiful lake I'd ever seen. Returning years later I was repulsed by the buildup in a once semi-secluded area. It was not the same lake.
David Fairbanks (Reno Nevada)
Reno is suffering. Construction workers and anyone who has to be outside. Bronchitis and the seeds of ling cancer. Try to walk five blocks and you become exhausted. Older folks are stuck in apartments or houses many without A/C. What is worse is the cruel realization that this is the future, the fires will come every year. Life in Nevada has become depressing and there's no place to go. New York City gets the smoke after a few days.
Was wondering if there are still some climate deniers out there?
DHC (Hillcrest, CA)
@GAF Yes. One is running for governor of CA to replace Newsom if he's recalled, Larry Elder. Vote NO on recall.
SpiralTurtle (Lake Champlain)
@GAF “It’s sun spots” proclaimed an neighbor, just a couple of days ago. I think it’s just an excuse for people who want to resist changing their lifestyles at any cost.
Jeff (California)
@GAF This fire, like most in the west was not caused by climate change but by man not taking good care of the forests. We suppress all fire so taht when a big one its is has plenty of dead d wood to burn. It is not climate change but the failure of government to properly maintain the forests. If fact it is the Republicans who repeatedly refuse to fund fire suppression money for out National Forest who are responsible for these devastating fires.
Ted Novell (Canada)
Has it occurred to the Human race yet, that we are beginning to pay a hefty price for our negligence in preparing and/or mitigating the real time results of Man made Climate Change ? Many decades have gone by, many Politicians have come and gone, without realizing that Talk cannot put out fires, or replenish water levels in Lakes and Rivers that are drying out. Plague, Fire, Flooding, water reservoirs drying out. Do we have to look at the Bible to see the Moses list of curses bestowed on Pharaoh ? I have to say that one of the best things I have achieved in this life is not fathering children. I don’t have to worry about the Planet I am leaving for them. May God help the innocents that will have to live live through what we have created.
A (Indiana)
This is so sad. I want to be furious. Furious at the fossil fuel executives who have known for 50 years that their product was destroying our planet and did everything they could to hide it. Furious at the politicians for taking bribes from those companies and helping them expand their reach and legalize their pollution. Furious at our citizens for not standing up earlier and demanding, by force of general strike, that our planet not be destroyed. But I'm just tired. I'm tired of my country being constantly on fire and flooded. Tired of nothing being done to address a tradgedy akin to 1000 times the coronavirus pandemic. Tired knowing that my future and the future of the planet will be monumentally worse and that no action will take place until it is far too late. What a shame.
A.M. (Davis, CA)
Ahem. Dixie fire has been burning since July 14 now at 749xxx acres. AQI in Susanville has been unhealthy for months. So it looks as though once the moneyed interests of the Tahoe area is involved, the story is publishable . . .
RFM (Seattle)
Growing up in Montana ten miles from Glacier Park, we would endure the inevitable smoke from forest fires in the surrounding national forest. My mother would read the paper everyday and when a fire would reach the Park, she would always exclaim, “Well, now, we’ll get this out”. And, you know what? She was right.
Erik Frederiksen (Sonora, CA)
“This is what climate change looks like,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Nature Conservancy. “It’s overlapping crises. People try to escape one crisis and stumble into another one.” We are in the process of leaving California. No place will be safe but some will be safer than others. For awhile. We can’t escape changes to the international economy or mass migration.
nerdrage (SF)
@Erik Frederiksen Good luck finding anyplace not impacted by climate change. Hmm, how about Alaska...get there early before the real estate goes crazy. Don't buy anything on the coast at sea level.
Esther Trible (California)
Where r u going
Martha (Northfield, MA)
Confounding thousands of newcomers who fled there? Where have these people been? They must be living in a bubble and not looking around at all the devastation out there caused by the climate catastrophe.
nerdrage (SF)
@Martha They're rich techbro types from SF. They're oblivious fools who only know what TikTok tells them on their iPhone. Hope they didn't overpay too much for their second homes at Tahoe...
SpiralTurtle (Lake Champlain)
There is no fleeing climate change.
Tom (Alsip, IL)
Speaking from the point of view of someone living in a Democrat governed state with lots of fresh water and relatively clean air, oh well. Yes I pay a lot in taxes. Are not excessive health insurance premiums and out of pocket costs for treatment of your breathing problems at tax? Is not excessively high home insurance for homes in wildfire areas a tax? But hey, let's vote for people to run the state who will deny climate change and support policy that gives tax breaks to the obscenely wealthy and multi-national businesses while refusing to fund any efforts to properly manage the forests to prevent the first spark from having kindling to ignite. A few million dollars appropriated to fund local small start-up businesses to hire local residents to go out into the forests BEFORE the fires start to clean up the forest floor debris might be a good investment in working class human infrastructure. That kind of appropriate corrective action may get some traction now. It used to be that only the Democrat states of CA, OR and WA were burning to the ground for nine months of the year. Now that Montana, Idaho, Utah and Arizona are having their own period of reflection Mother Nature may get her proper say. As I said, Oh well.
Bella (the city different)
@Tom This is a world wide issue. Everything happening in the burning west and the drowning east is caused by a world ignoring the issue. States cannot solve the problems that are brought on by living in a closed capsule called planet Earth. It goes well beyond our borders.
Rita Prangle (Mishawaka, IN)
@Tom Cleaning the forest floor isn't going to help when everything is dry.
Carole Goldberg (Northern CA)
@Tom Drought and weather patterns know no politics.
Harley Leiber (Portland OR)
I was raided in the Bay Area. Tahoe back in the 50's and 60's was an oasis . We camped, fished, swam and played. As kids we hiked into the remote canyons surrounding the lakes. The temperature were 20-30 degrees cooler than the east bay and the air was clear. Evening were spent around the camp fire. Cannot imagine what the locals are experiencing.
K. (Midwest)
The high-consumption lifestyle that is common in Tahoe and other communities for the affluent needs to come to an end. In particular, frequent flying must stop.
Bob in NM (Los Alamos, NM)
Now that the affluent are being afflicted by the climate crisis, I suspect things will start happening quickly. But I hope the country will not get paved over by solar panels and wind farms in the false hope that they will solve the problem of CO2 buildup. There's not enough there. Like it or not, nuclear power is the only large-scale option we have now. And, all thing considered, it is actually safer than other options when one looks at, for example, the hazards with oil wells, refineries, tanker spills, pipeline explosions, etc.
DPK (Siskiyou County Ca.)
@Bob in NM , yes, but what about nuclear power waste, I haven't hear anywhere that problem has been fixed, until the time that the waste problem is solved, nuclear power is a pipe dream.
Bob in NM (Los Alamos, NM)
@DPK : Compared to the 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide dumped into the atmosphere each day by a single coal plant, the spent nuclear fuel issue is down in the noise. And it's not waste. New reactor designs can actually use it as fuel.
Yoandel (Boston)
@Bob in NM what I worry is that we self-delude ourselves into thinking the answer is tech. Nope, the answer is to change how we as a society carry on. And I do not mean only energy consumption. I mean the way we do things. If we had sequestered carbon shortly after noticing the effects of fossil fuels... but short term gain thinking and egotism of the few got us where we are. From whales to water to timber to arable land, we as societies run resources out and concentrate wealth on the few while passing risk and the bill to the many. Nuclear has had the same issues from capitalistic Japan to the Soviets. Nuclear (and fossil fuels) done a different way might very well work, but if done the same way we will end up with radiation contamination all over the place, just as with CO2 today.
Aaron (Russian River)
If we can put a man on the moon we could certainly extinguish these fires. We’ve added hundreds of millions of dollars to fire protection in the last few years and this is apparently the best we can do? If the strategy is to just let the fires burn then can’t we at least be honest about it? If I have to hear one more time that it’s too smoky to put aircraft in the sky to fight the fires I think I might lose my mind. Where does the money even go?
Boards (Alexandria)
@Aaron Take it a few steps further... Can't we create water in the Central Valley? Can't we stop the glaciers from melting? Can't we cap those pesky volcanos? Oh and this hurricanes--build walls?
WAF (Arena, WI)
@Aaron Have you ever fought a wildfire? It is frightening, exhausting and incredibly dangerous. There are limits to what money can do. We Americans need to face that fact. The problem is not the fires but climate change.
MrX (N America)
@Aaron, to answer your question, I think the money probably goes mostly to hiring and training more firefighters and buying the equipment they need to put them on the lines.
TripleJ (NYC)
Heartbreaking. The area around Lake Tahoe truly is one of the most beautiful places in the country. The water level of the lake is not mentioned in the article, and it should be. Do the firefighters draw water from the lake? It appears low to me in the pictures.
DPK (Siskiyou County Ca.)
@TripleJ , there has been an extreme drought in California for at least five years. Lake Tahoe gets it's water from the snow pack, without the snow the water level drops.
Elizabeth Willars (Reno, NV)
The water reservoirs in all of California are low, Lake Tahoe included. We just aren’t getting enough snow pack in the winters to fill our (mountains) lakes and rivers. The winters used to be gorgeous and full of snow. They are warm and dry now.
Daddy Frank (McClintock Country)
TripleJ - lake Tahoe is unimaginably large. Yes, the lake is low, but that’s due to the drought. Every fire aircraft could dip for every fire in the West from Lake Tahoe, all season long, and it would not perceptibly affect the lake level.
Jwood (Ann Arbor)
Just did a 10 week summer road trip (in a hybrid car) of North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Experienced all the extreme heat, extreme drought, and wildfire smoke for weeks. Nature was dry as a bone - crushing environmental and agricultural stress was everywhere. The other two things we saw everywhere were gratuitous pickup trucks and Trump flags/signs.
Mark McIntyre (Los Angeles)
We have a front row view of the new normal. Same happened a year ago when all of California was choking in smoke. Now it's the Western United States. Saw a shot of the Las Vegas Strip looking like a fog had descended on it. It's happening globally with fires from Siberia to the Amazon to Australia. The polar regions are in jeopardy, so I don't know how much more evidence we need to acknowledge there's a climate crisis.
Terry (Nevada)
I live just east of Lake Tahoe, in an old Nevada ranching valley. This all seems a bit of over-reaction to me. Yes, we have an ongoing pandemic and the fires have been bad this summer. And all that seems destined to continue into fall. But the pandemic will abate at some point and the snows will fall and the fires will die. The sky will clear and beauty will return and the land will begin to recover, probably in a different form. It seemed odd to me last year that so many would relocate due to the pandemic. And now it seems equally odd that people would do it again due to some temporary smoke. Move for those factors and you run into some other problem, earthquake, flooding, crime, your kids in a school they don't like, a job that turns sour. A bit of a longer view might be in order. And some perseverance. As for me, I'm making the best of life indoors for awhile, taking advantage of the occasional clearing to get out, and looking forward to the skiing I'll be doing in a few months, gazing down from the mountains that ring it at perhaps the most beautiful lake in the country through crystal clear cold fresh air, glad I hung around.
Scott (Talent, OR)
It’s interesting that two totally opposing attitudes are helping ruin the environment: The happy hopeful: “Don’t worry—everything will be just fine” The nihilist: “We’re done for. No point in even trying.”
Eric Olsen (Central Coast Of California)
On the one hand, I admire your equanimity. On the other hand, your faith in future snowfall and clear water (after who knows what kind of toxins from the fires empty into the lake) sound like denial. Perhaps that gives you comfort - but what comfort can you offer to generations to come who will inherit a broken, scorched world?
Decent Citizen (Pennsylvania)
I'm fairly certain this is a picture of Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe (because of that island). I did a summer of summer stock in South Lake Tahoe when I was about 18 or 19. One of my lifetime favorite memories involves being tied to the deck on the bow of a houseboat (so I wouldn't fall off) sipping Bloody Marys and absorbing the sunshine for several hours on Emerald Bay. This picture is just awful to see. I hope at its worst the smoke in this picture is only seasonal - and that's a tough bargaining position to even move to. Only time will tell.
Dan (San Jose)
I feel for those in Tahoe and Reno. This was our reality last year at this time. Watching the winds to get the kids outside for two hours of cleaner air. Plotting our escape to anywhere in driving distance with good air. Constant nose and throat irritation. Climate change is here.
John (California)
I have talked to so many Tahoe old timers this past year who hoped for something to drive the newcomers out. I guess they got their wish.
Bella (the city different)
People still don't get it. Whether you live in the most expensive property or the most meager cabin, life is not worth living if you don't have clean water and clean air. This isn't a trial run, it's our future if we continue to do nothing. As far as I can tell our government is incapable of addressing this issue full on with the speed that it needs to be addressed. Our planet's future will be decided during this decade. A year into the decade and we're still pretending it will go away!
Insight (US)
@Bella Decade after decade we watched the long train of emission-belching SUV's exiting the bay area on the way to Tahoe every weekend. Now without irony, these same drivers complain about the smoke at the end of their long, high-speed race up the mountains. I always knew the stickers on their SUV's should read "Keep Tahoe Brownish-Orange".
The Truth (Vermont)
So the earth has been here for millions of years but we only 9 to ‘fix’ climate change? Wake up.
David (California)
@Bella The problem is not that the people don't get it. The problem is that our leaders don't get it.
C Gillis (Carson City, NV)
From the flanks of the Sierra Nevada and keeping a close watch on the advance of the Caldor Fire, yes it's news, yes it's of great concern, but the firecrews are working hard to keep this one from reaching the major population center in it's path. The smoke has been impacting everyone, but more importantly, the potential for evacuation is on everyone's mind around here. With that in mind orders have been issued for many communities to clear out. I have family in the area whose anxiety is almost out of control. In my attempt to help reduce that stress I remind them that these orders are issued very early because there are large numbers of people who might need to flee and the few routes available for that action. Also there is a natural fire break between Lake Tahoe and the advance of this fire - it's called the Desolation Wilderness. This huge granite outcrop is the Sierra Nevada's skeleton. While the news is not good, the fight is not over. And fight they are.
Conor (South Lake Tahoe)
@C Gillis Unfortunately its heading southwest towards Christmas Valley and not towards Desolation. Still plenty of granite and PLENTY of downhill to get to Tahoe, but its not the giant slabs of granite that Desolation has. Luckily the winds aren't as bad today , but it's been pretty unpredictable these last few days.
SMac (Bend, Or)
People can move. Animals cannot. I grieve for their suffering.
Ian Baker (Dutch Flat CA)
As a local I find it cringy how easy it is to report how people around Lake Tahoe are affected because they are the new, surprised, rich outsiders. The poor people who live in the surrounding forests who don’t have a retreat, that’s the story. The 80 year old hermit artist in his tinderbox house, the young family in a trailer, they are stuck with little local economy, stuck with their horrendous commutes to serve the obliviously wealthy. When their house burns down they are more stuck than ever with their fire insurance freshly cancelled and anywhere else in the state with a job to offer comes with California pricing. It’s an unseen tragedy of epic proportion.
Philip S. Wenz (Corvallis, Oregon)
@Ian Baker Yes. One can only feel so sorry for the people who buy $1M second homes — at least compared to the sympathy one has for those who are just getting by in life. Nature doesn’t make the distinction, of course, but we still can. When and if it comes time to rebuild after the fires, make sure those who are most dispossessed and most vulnerable are taken care of.
Warren Peace (Columbus, OH)
@Ian Baker I profoundly appreciate your words. My daughter and her neighbors are all locals living just northwest of the fire's edge. They're safely evacuated, but they're leaving behind their only homes. All that can be done now is hope for calm winds and high humidity and have faith in the expertise and heroism of the firefighters.
David (California)
The "Purple Air" website, which gives real-time air pollution information throughout the country, has become indispensable in wildfire country. We don't go anywhere without checking. We don't even open the windows.
Robert Salm (Chicago)
@David The EPA's is another site and less-reliant on third party sensors.
Dave (Ca)
Sad about the fire(s), but ecstatic to see people leaving the Tahoe region - if only it were permanently.
Mike (Somewhere In Idaho)
Well I’m just super glad that all of us get to share in the mess in California. Every bit of smoke from their fires - all of them - heads east or northeast so that we in Idaho get every bit. It’s been this way almost every day this summer, last summer, and the summer before. There are days at my home in Teton Valley that we can’t see the Grand Teton and it’s 7 miles away - nothing, gone, can’t breath. I long for the days of logging to level out some of the excess timber. We just as well use it rather than letting it burn. Also that would be better than needing to import it all from Canada.
Kim (Salt Lake City, Utah)
I recently drove through Idaho (south to north) and saw firefighters across the northern portion of the state fighting fires. The smoke was intolerable and unhealthy - and this was in the north where the smoke was from resident fires and was not from California. You can look at the NYT fire maps over the summer to see the large numbers of fires across Idaho. The problem is not a California problem but a global problem with disasters of all sorts arising due to the warming earth. The solution is not in pointing fingers and making political jabs but in working together without boundaries to make positive change on an individual and collective level.
Sendero Caribe (Playa Hermosa)
@Mike Government is going to have to think long and hard about its forest and fire policies after this summer.
Waterman (Roseville)
@Kim The area where the Caldor fire is consuming trees is an active logging area. The best practice of clear-cutting and creates meadows within the forest. This is done under permit of the USFS and improves the health of the plants and animals. This wind-driven crowning fire has been exacerbated by the low rainfall of 2020. For the last 5 years since the disaster in Paradise CA. The central valley of California has had hazardous smoke for at least 1 month straight. 2020 was 2 months straight of hazardous smoke without relief. Our communities not threatened directly by fire still suffer from hazardous conditions of the smoke without pause.
Sis (L.A.)
Goodbye Greenville, Paradise, and Phoenix. The fire season in the West has been horrific for about 5 years. In the 1800s poor construction and access to water also made fires devastating to humans. But we tamed the West with huge irrigation projects that allowed us to build and grow at will. Now as the great basins of water evaporate and fires rage through the wild and scenic West what will we do in the 21st Century?
left coast finch (L.A.)
@Sis “...what will we do in the 21st Century?” Stop running, chasing the next green valley, and start working for change and adaptation in your own backyard. I have no sympathy for wealthy liberals, so-called progressives, and even conservatives who bail on hard times in the cities when those societies need them, their civic commitment, problem-solving creativity, and taxes most. It’s even more galling that they thumb their noses at blue city/state government taxes meant to address quality of life for all, even for those in lesser well-off zip codes, and then flood rural regions of lower income locals, ravaging their cost-of-living and quality of life in the process. As Gizmo from Boston said, “The me me me attitude of the boomers has been amplified in their progeny and now we all experience the consequences.” I couldn’t care less if their precious alpine havens burn to the ground except that it’s taking the once charming rural communities I used to visit as a conscientious traveler and the stunning majesty of the California forests with them. Go to Texas and leave California forests and rural regions as they were.
Kristoph (Portland, OR)
It's really a matter of taking your turn suffering, unfortunately, as climate change will make everywhere bad on a given year. Here in Portland we expected the worst, again, but were surprised by a really pleasant summer with clean air, apart from two 3-day heatwaves. Now it's cool and cloudy and we are ecstatic. Here on the coast, it's all a matter of wind direction, and we got lucky this year. We're all going to have to adjust to the reality that this incredible and dramatic landscape we love comes with in addition to volcanoes and earthquakes, periods of smoke. I'd like to think we can or will reverse climate change, but I don't see too many commuters switching from cars to bicycles, not even in iconic Portland.
David (California)
@Kristoph Climate change cannot be addressed by individuals making choices. It will require draconian government action. (But don't hold your breath.)
left coast finch (L.A.)
@Kristoph “We're all going to have to adjust to the reality that this incredible and dramatic landscape we love comes with in addition to volcanoes and earthquakes, periods of smoke.” This. We had a bad season with fire ringing the northern San Fernando Valley in 2019 but have had average summers since. In fact, LA has been a bit cooler on average, especially overnights, this summer. That’s the way it’s always been. Yes, it’s much drier and we can’t throw water to the wind as we did as children but some years are smokey and others are not. I’ve been incredibly irritated by the “see ya later, I’m bailing” attitude by so many supposed progressives during covid and when our cities needed their energy and creativity most. I’m just laughing at the guy who fled to Tahoe and is now back in Santa Monica, of all places, seeking refuge. Rather than flee, we need to stop running, consuming everything in our paths, and wasting incredible amounts of energy, money, time, and resources and redirect it all into reimagining the spaces and communities we already inhabit. Why run when you can work to build a better house and community that’s resilient and adapted to the coming changes? Oh, that’s right; it means you’d actually have to do the work and care about the every day reality of the other guy beyond that day you hung a sign in your window and attended a BLM rally.
PLR (Lake Tahoe)
This is the sad reality that I've seen out my windows for weeks. Don't kid yourself - almost nowhere in California - or really the entire West Coast - is safe from this anymore. Last year, we here in Lake Tahoe actually didn't have many fires very close by. In August 2020, there was smoke, but it was largely coming from large fires around the Bay Area. Some of the previous comments include some interesting variables, but what this comes down to here is 1) a hotter and dryer climate due to humans, 2) California's high natural variability in annual precipitation, and 3) over a century of fire suppression and forest mismanagement. Winter 2020-2021 was warm and dry to cover variables 1 and 2, and much of the area where the Caldor fire is burning hasn't burned since 1940 or seen much thinning or controlled burns, so there's fuel to cover variable 3. The perfect storm.
coale johnson (5000 horseshoe meadow road)
@PLR Good comment! Another thing to factor in his human stupidity surrounding fire. I don’t know about the Dixie fire but a couple fires down our way and the Caldor fire are of unspecified origins. Which can easily mean people doing stupid things. The big fire up by Redding couple years ago was starting because some guy had a flat tire and was driving on the rim which created sparks which started an inferno. Some how the word needs to get out that we need to take extreme measures to stop human created wildfire
Shane (Isle of Skye)
We need to train Volunteer Firefighters who can drop everything and provide back up support to the Professional Firefighters who are on the frontline fighting the fires. People should not be just clearing some brush near their homes and then leaving but clearing out any brush within a 100 feet of their homes and cutting down any trees, as close, to their homes. They should do all they can to then help build firebreaks wherever possible, stamping out any small fires started by floating cinders. It is a war and it should be all available and capable hands on deck.
David (California)
@Shane No number of firefighters can stop a wind driven inferno in tinder dry mountainous terrain.
hey (there)
@Shane tell that to the sierra club.
Dave (Ca)
Sweep the forests mentally. You apparently have no idea how populated forested regions in states like california actually are. The solution from a personal property and lives standpoint is for less people building and residing in these forested regions. Fire is natural and necessary - that’s just a basic fact. Your not going to ‘sweep’ it away.
Daisy (Nevada)
I am a senior Native Nevadan living below Lake Tahoe in the Minden Gardnerville area. Our skies have been filled with haze, smoke and heavy smoke since the Tamarisk fire broke out in early July followed by the Caldor fire the second week of August. Because we live in a "leaky" house we have taped our windows and the front door shut with painter's tape and built 2 whole house air cleaners with information available online from a "This Old House" video. (4 two inch MERV 13 filters a 30 inch fan, the cardboard from the fan and lots and lots of duct tape. Cost for each under $100.) If only we could find a pet friendly motel or a place to pitch a tent on the Washington or Oregon coast we would be out of here. Hoping to find a place after labor day. Our dogs need to go for a walk.
AM (Stamford, CT)
@Daisy so sorry!
Ski bum (Colorado)
Between the pandemic, Delta variant, wildfires and smoke, unleashed gun violence, hurricanes, flash flooding, tornados and other extreme weather aren’t we all feeling a bit agitated these days?
Bella (the city different)
@Ski bum This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Muddlerminnow (Chicago)
@Ski bum Yes, except for when the consequences of pot legalization softens the reality
coale johnson (5000 horseshoe meadow road)
@Ski bum Cool as a cucumber and breathing easy in Valdez New Mexico. Unfortunately I have to go home sometime to the Smoki Owens Valley
Larry D (New York City)
Heartbreaking. Lake Tahoe is a place where heaven reaches down to kiss the Earth. It's a place where the strife of the world in all it's pandora-like imbalance is relieved by the angels themselves among the redwoods, silver light dancing upon royal blue waters, wind in the grasses and alpine air that once inhaled are a reviving tonic for the weary soul.
splg (sacramento,ca)
@Larry D The Lake Tahoe you describe has not existed for more than sixty years. As a five year old in 1947 looking down on the lake from Echo summit, I marvelled at the " ever changing hues of blues in shallow pockets...the waters could be the water got deeper, it turned from blue to indigo to navy" Towers of Gold, page 226. This unbelievable heavenly manifestation is long gone as are the redwood trees of any consequence that were not really there anyway. Oh, and Tahoe basin air and other pollution did not first show up with the Caldor fire.
Allison (California)
@Larry D Beautiful, and so captures the magic that is Tahoe.
brian begley (stanford,ca)
@Larry D There are no redwoods any where near Lake Tahoe
TeriDk (Wyoming)
It’s not just Lake Tahoe. Here in northwest Wyoming, you can barely breathe. You can’t see the hills across the valley. We have had air quality alerts every day for weeks.
Carol (CA)
It really sucks, doesn't it? It feels like it will never end. Eventually it will, but you'll have a nagging sense of dread every summer.
C (Gualala)
This is not going to end until society is ok with breathing a bit of intentional smoke in the shoulder seasons, and spending the time and effort to reduce fuel loading. Right now it’s too difficult and restricted to do enough prescribed burning in California. Risks of an intentional fire jumping its lines in a wetter season also need to be accepted as part of living in the west.
Gizmos (Boston)
Pay a million dollars and live far away from an airport or large hospital. The me me me attitude of the boomers has been amplified in their progeny and now we all experience the consequences. Excessive water use has squeezed all moisture from the west and now it’s burning up. The symptom is climate change, the problem is over population and over consumption. I hope our generation emphasizes smaller houses, smaller cars and less consumption. A real middle class with a middle class lifestyle.
Dontbelieveit (NJ)
@Gizmos Sure.... but it is too late. Somethings enter into a never ending loop thru the passed tipping points.
David (California)
@Gizmos "Excessive water use has squeezed all moisture from the west and now it’s burning up." So now we should water our national forests in addition to sweeping them? The only water these forests ever receive is from precipitation. Human water use has nothing to do with it. Human caused climate change is at the root.
Thomas Penn in Seattle (Seattle)
@Gizmos This is about the best and most simple answer to why we go through this every year. Over population, over consumption - thank you! Over built communities butting up against forest and mountain foothills, utility company transformers that explode when hit by a flying branch, over consumption worldwide (been to outside Agra, India, as an example, to see the Honda plant belching smoke?) that is warming the atmosphere. It's not complicated. After the last two summers here in Seattle (last year being the worst, and I get it when someone says it smells like burning wood and burning rubber, and an ashtray after it rains), we are having a great Summer weather-wise, with little smoke. Our respite, but I feel for others. When I think about retirement (say 10 years from now), I am now looking at wind patterns and fire danger. Hawai'i, coastal Central America, or Tonga. I can dream.
JK (Minnesota)
It's sad to see people so overwhelmed by the smoke in the West. Having grown up in Carson City and now living in Minnesota, I've often thought of moving back there after retirement. But now that I have retired, that option is receding further and further to the back of my mind. We had one day of smoke blowing to the Twin Cities from northern Minnesota yesterday and it brought home the bigger reality that having to live with that throughout an entire summer would be just too overwhelming. I'm thinking of all of out there dealing with this and hoping that your days clear up soon.
@JK ...and please no more coastal elites relocating to Minnesota, the upper midwest, or elsewhere to "escape." Work to improve life where you are at, get affordable housing, and provide a better and more equitable community for your neighbors. Or, move to a red state and try to throw out the next generation of climate change-denying politicians.
coale johnson (5000 horseshoe meadow road)
@JF here here! As someone who has lived in California for 44 years? I too I think Californians should get their house in order instead of moving and bringing all their problems with them
FerCry'nTears (EVERYWHERE)
@JF My family has been in California since the 1840's. As far as I am concerned most of the populous here came from other places. If they decide to relocate back to where they came from would be fantastic! You do know that most people who live in the country came from somewhere else. People have migrated for as long as there have been people
Djt (Norcal)
The Bay Area generally had lower COVID rates than the rural areas to which people tried to escape. Our Bay Area zip code averaged about 1 case per week during 2020. And with no fire risk.
Nomad (Turtle Island)
Yes but the Bay Area still deals with near unbreathable air for summer. I was there for the Orange Apocalyse Day in 2020.
Rabble (USVI)
@Djt Too bad it's always grey foggy and downright depressing not to mention cold in the 50's until late afternoon.
Salvina (St. Louis)
@Djt You’re lucky the wind doesn’t blow from east to west or you would feel the effects of all that smoke.
It is obvious (Oakland,ca)
While I have great sympathy for the real locals of the Lake Tahoe area, sorry but there is a bit of schadenfreude in the plight of the newcomers. I read several articles over the past year about how the influx of cash-rich people from the Bay Area, those able to work from home, were driving up the property prices of what had been fairly affordable (those that's a squishy term these days and very relative). Climate change, meet social change.
Sendero Caribe (Playa Hermosa)
@It is obvious Tahoe is simply a place to avoid during the weekends and holidays during the summer. It was that way before the pandemic and it is worse now. Property prices were sky high before the pandemic and the Silicon Valley types showing up with bags of money have only made it worse. The rich feeding off the rich.
AERbird (CA)
@It is obvious Thank you for pointing this out. It is definitely all class related. Though I would never describe Tahoe real estate as "fairly affordable." What you have today is a workforce of wealthy-ish high-end workers who have the luxury of working from home, who perhaps live in the Bay Area, then deciding they want more space for their family now that they can work anywhere. Selling their (multi) million dollar homes, moving up to another (multi) million dollar home in Tahoe (jacking up real estate in the process) and then being frustrated that there is smoke. Schadenfreude indeed.
@It is obvious Lake Tahoe has been a playground of the wealthy for more than a generation. And I have sympathy for people escaping urban COVID risks. It's honestly the right thing to do, if you follow the guidelines and get vaccinated, it's best to be spread out, after all.