Lake Tahoe resident played violin as family stopped in Caldor fire evacuation traffic

By Lauren M. Johnson, CNN

A Lake Tahoe artist played music on the road to put the anxiety to vent the Caldor’s fire behind him, if only for a moment.

Mel Smothers told CNN he decided to evacuate with his wife Liz and dog Peak on Monday after assessing the situation over the weekend. It wasn’t until they were on the road that they discovered that the order had only become mandatory a few hours before.

“There was this traffic jam of all the traffic jams, it was worse than trying to quit a Grateful Dead concert,” he said. “We went about half a block and then it was solid. “

Smothers considers himself a student of the violin, which he started playing six years ago after completing a semester at Juilliard. He practices regularly, so he wasted no time. He decided to get out of his car and hit his violin.

“I couldn’t just sit there and waste time,” he said. “I felt like people were in their cars listening to me, like I was going to give a performance, but that really wasn’t the idea.”

He is quickly spotted by journalists who take pictures on the way. At one point, his wife jokingly told him to consider stopping so as not to create a scene.

“I was looking around and hoping that someone would pull out a guitar or a mandolin – the joy of making music really makes me feel good,” he said.

It took the couple seven and a half hours to make the normal two and a half hour trip to Sacramento. They stay with a painter friend who has opened her guest room to them.

Smothers said he had lived in the Lake Tahoe area since the 1970s and that this was the first time he had been evacuated due to a fire. He was even a ranger in Tahoe in 1976.

“The new reality is that forests are burning,” he said. “There are things we cannot control on the planet.”

Some of their friends believe they may have lost their homes, based on the media coverage in the area, and Smothers said anxiety about not knowing if the fire was going to catch up with them on the road was hard to see. overcome.

“There was quite thick smoke and ashes were falling – very like Pompeii,” he said. “It wasn’t that critical, we could move, but for sure the fire was moving really fast.”

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