Lake Tahoe Evacuation Lifted, Some Casinos Remain Closed, But Bears In Homes 

Posted on: September 6, 2021, 01:44h. 

Last updated on: September 6, 2021, 02:14h.

Evacuation orders on the California and Nevada sides of Lake Tahoe were downgraded to warnings over the weekend, allowing thousands of residents to return. But with the Caldor Fire still burning, some casinos at the lake remained closed during the normally busy Labor Day holiday.

Lake Tahoe South Shore
With Harrah’s hotel-casino in the background, a bicyclist approaches an open sign on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore. The major casinos at Lake Tahoe are on the South Shore. (Image: Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Last week, with the massive wildfire inching to within miles of the alpine lake, resident and visitors were ordered to evacuate. The major casinos on the South Shore closed their hotel towers to the public. Firefighters and some evacuees and employees were sheltered in the guest rooms.

The major resorts on the South Shore are Hard Rock Lake Tahoe, MontBleu Resort, Harrah’s, and Harveys Lake Tahoe. These hotel-casinos are in Stateline, Nevada, just east of the California town of South Lake Tahoe.

At the Hard Rock, the hotel was open on Monday. But the property is at full capacity and not accepting new reservations, according to the resort’s website. The table games and slot machines are closed. One bar on the property remained opened. All entertainment through Sept.12 has been canceled and will be rescheduled.

MontBleu also remained closed to the public on Monday.

“We are continuing to provide housing and support to firefighters and team member evacuees,” the MontBleu website states. “We will remain in constant communication with local agencies and look forward to reopening our doors as soon as it is safe to do so.”

A telephone operator handling calls for the two Caesars Entertainment properties at Stateline, Harrah’s and Harveys, told the hotels were open, but only for first responders. She advised others to check ahead for room reservations. She said the gaming floors were open with a limited number of dealers

Dry Summer Fires

In recent weeks, Lake Tahoe has been shrouded in smoke and ash from the massive Caldor Fire that began southwest of the lake.

The freshwater lake straddles the California-Nevada border in the Sierra Nevada mountains about 20 miles west of Carson City, the Nevada capital. The California capital, Sacramento, is about 112 miles west of the high-altitude lake. 

Fueled by drought-stricken timberland, the Caldor Fire has scorched nearly 340 square miles of California forests and dry terrain. The fire is named for the street in El Dorado County where it started. Its cause remains under investigation. The Caldor Fire is one of 13 large fires now burning in California.   

In what would have been an end-of-summer holiday filled with outdoor enthusiasts and casino gamblers, lines of vehicles last week were carrying evacuees to Carson City and other nearby places.

Bears Wander Into Town

With the evacuation order lifted, people have been drifting back into the Tahoe Basin, according to the Associated Press.

So far it hasn’t been a mad rush of cars,” South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief Clive Savacool said. “We’re happy to see that people are slowly trickling in, just because the city does need time to get ready.”

Savacool said the air is still smoky, so people with health problems might want to wait before returning, the Associated Press reported. The fire chief added that police officers are patrolling residential areas, so “Your home will still be safe.”

With most people gone from the area, bears have made their way into town, spreading trash and possibly entering homes.

“The delicate balance between humans and bears has been upset,” El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Simon Brown said. Residents who are concerned about bears in their homes should call police, he said.