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The Caldor Fire at the Doorstep of Tahoe

Two weeks ago I took this picture of the burgeoning Caldor Fire from our property three miles due west of the fire’s birth. The pic went on to be picked up by news organizations, and I’ve seen it show up on everything from tee-shirts to go fund me pages. The pic has a life of its own, much like that which it captured. But until now, I’ve never shared the full story behind it. So here goes.

After two days of watching plumes of smoke from a small fire rise over Slug Gulch ridge, things started changing on that Monday afternoon. An inversion lifted, and the fire popped its top. A large cloud started to form. The small fire rapidly grew to hundreds of acres. We checked in on the plume periodically. Then, around 11:00 pm, it all changed. It was built. It was alive. We stared in silent awe and watched for 30 minutes as it churned in its caldron into a beast of wrathful malevolence. Then, as if by supernatural force, it summoned the Southerly winds to carry it on its destructive path. A few hours later, the town of Grizzly Flats would be decimated. Then over the next ten days, it would continue to gather force as it marched east. Now it stands at the granite walls that protect Tahoe like a hoard of orcs at the gates of Helms Deep. The fortress once believed to be impenetrable now seems defenseless. We somehow could envision this as we watched it on that night when this pic was clicked. And somehow you can see it in the pic, backdropped by beauty and stars. These next two days will be fascinating as all of the forces of good will conspire to try to stop this CALdron of MorDOR fire that is so hellbent on destruction. I 🙏 for my beloved Tahoe and points beyond. Who will be our Gandalf and the Rohirrim?


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