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  • Emily Tessmer

Opinion:The Caldor Fire


My son’s baby box, baby blankets, stuffed animals, a mandolin made in Chicago circa 1910 that my Grammy left me, a garnet necklace my other grandmother left me from her travels in Africa, and the ashes of my precious doggie, Oberon, who passed away last Spring. These are the things I needed to make a B line for.


Things gets real when you are the one rushing home at lightning speed to retrieve belongings that you know you would never be able to replace.


The morning of August 16th my stepdaughter, who picked me up at the airport in Sacramento, and I raced up the 88 freeway to grab what we could. Before making that right turn down our driveway, the plume of the Caldor fire sat perfectly pitched in between the towering pines, framed by the road.


This time, the fire was less than 10 miles from our house as the crow flies.


When faced with your house burning down and all your belongings with it, fight or flight sets in, and doesn’t leave until the rain comes, and then again, the rain doesn’t come as often as it used to in the Sierra. The behemoth Caldor Fire was burning out of control, and we were soon to be under an evacuation warning because it was so close.


In the Sierra Nevada, just like the Aspen leaves turn and fall, so do the fires come, now stronger and scarier than ever. What was once the pristine forest of the Sierra Nevada, is now a forest over grown with duff material, and one that is plagued by wildfires every.single.year.


The Tahoe basin, a recreational blue paradise during the Summer, has now become a place to flee from instead of to. The thick rancid smoke from surrounding wildfires just sits in the basin as the locals suffocate annually.


Climate change and climate change induced drought are creating perfect firestorms that spread quickly and are almost impossible to contain. The Sierra Nevada are no longer a safe haven for animals, humans and ancient trees, they are bone dry, and it is only going to get worse as climate change predictions for at least the next thirty years are dire, and even then, unless we make changes now, climate change will continue escalating.


I spent every Summer as a child in the Tahoe basin and became a full-time resident in 2008. The thought of what will manifest here as our climate continues to dry out on the west coast is horrifying. It is worse than a head on collision.


These are sacred lands that are being destroyed.


My biological mother who lives in Waterloo, Iowa 1808 miles away, has described red sunsets and poor air quality on the daily. Our incendiary western skies have sent the smoke and ash of the once living in the Sierra across the United States.


Unless you have hiked the trails in the Sierra, or driven the back roads of these mountains, you cannot imagine the extent of the decay on the forest floor. There are billions of downed tree limbs, carcasses of white fir trees that succame to their fate as the bark beetle hollowed them out, blankets of mountain misery, and Ponderosa, Jeffrey, and Sugar Pines that reach to the heavens.


While the cause of the Caldor fire remains under investigation, we know that nature was not responsible, because there were no lightning storms to blame the day it started. It was either arson, or Pacific Gas & Electric again, whose power lines are clearly faulty and failing.


PG&E, who are burning our forests down, are also implicated in the Dixie Fire in Plumas County, and have also taken responsibility for the Camp Fire in Paradise, CA., among others.


Hundred-year-old trees whose very presence seem to be a spiritual experience are now ash. Our forests will never be the same.


Thankfully the winds were in our favor at our house in Pioneer, but the forest between the foothills and Lake Tahoe, and all the life in it weren't so lucky. For the moment we are safe, however fire season isn’t over, and it’s anyone’s best guess what will happen next. We are still packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice.








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