On Monday afternoon, Highway 50 leading out of South Lake Tahoe, California, was jam packed with vehicles, as 22,000 residents — and thousands of visitors on vacation in the resort town — left under a mandatory evacuation order triggered by the Caldor Fire.
The order came on Monday morning, about 12 hours after an evacuation warning was issued. Flames from the Caldor Fire were about seven miles away from South Lake Tahoe early Monday, and officials wanted the town cleared before there wasn't enough time to get everyone out. With so many vehicles on the road, traffic was at a standstill for much of the afternoon, and South Lake Tahoe Police Officer Travis Cabral posted on social media that law enforcement "did expect" that to happen, "which is why we started the evacuation phase the way we did." By 5 p.m. PT, the traffic cleared, The Mercury News reports.
As of Monday, the Caldor Fire has scorched more than 177,000 acres, and is just 14 percent contained. In addition to the residents of South Lake Tahoe, more than 28,000 other people living in El Dorado County are also under mandatory evacuation orders. Firefighters are working to keep the blaze away from South Lake Tahoe, and Sgt. Eric Palmberg with the El Dorado Sheriff's Office told reporters on Monday that he hoped "we made these evacuations as a precaution and that they weren't really needed, but it's always better to err on the side of caution."