SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (NEXSTAR) – Evacuees from the raging Caldor blaze found themselves stranded in a dead end on Monday doing nothing but wait and worry. A few people ended up with an additional source of entertainment (and distraction): Mel Smothers on violin.
The longtime South Lake Tahoe resident was leaving town, along with the rest of the town of 22,000, when he hit the traffic jam. To pass the time, he took out his violin and began to play.
The photos show evacuees with their windows down or standing next to their cars, in the thick haze of smoke, listening to music.
Traffic jams outside South Lake Tahoe stranded residents for hours on Monday after a mandatory evacuation forced everyone to leave. Justin Sullivan, a photographer covering the Caldor fire and evacuations, noted there was a 45 minute period during which the cars on the escape route did not move at all.
Ken Breslin was in bumper-to-bumper traffic less than a mile from his home, with only a quarter of a tank of gas in his Ford Escape. His son begged him to leave on Sunday night, but he shrugged his shoulders, certain that if an evacuation order came, it would be later in the week.
“Before, it was’ No worries. It’s not going, it’s not going to peak. It’s not going to come down the hill. There are 3,500 firefighters, all these bulldozers and all the air support, ”he said. “Until this morning, I didn’t think there was a chance he could get into this area. Now it’s very real.
The Lake Tahoe region in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is generally a year-round recreational haven offering beaches, water sports, hiking, ski resorts, and golf.
Fire officials described this summer’s fire activity as unprecedented. Only twice in California history have fires burned across the Sierra Nevada – both this month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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