Ski Resorts Saved from California Wildfire

Kirkwood and Heavenly say they are ‘cautiously optimistic’ as the battle against the Caldor fire appears to have been won – so far. The resorts, volunteers and fire crews have put in an heroic effort and there is now hope as the wind eases. UPDATED

The Caldor Fire threatened threaten Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Heavenly Resort near Lake Tahoe.

However there is now some optimism about the situation at both resorts.

“While Kirkwood and Heavenly remain under threat, changing weather conditions, lighter winds, and the amazing progress made by firefighting personnel and our snowmaking teams have led to improved conditions for the coming days,” said a joint statement from the resorts.

“We are cautiously optimistic and deeply grateful to everyone on the ground helping to keep us safe and protect the community we call home.”

Teams of fire crews have been drafted in and many of the ones who helped saved the nearby resort of Sierra-at Tahoe last week were deployed to Kirkwood and Heavenly.

The snow cannons were switched on at both resorts to battle the fires.

Ski resorts have much to offer to fight fires  – the snow cannons all over the mountain, with direct connection to water supplies, make excellent fire hydrants.

Firefighters are spraying down buildings and chairlifts with water to protect them from fire.

Snowmaking hydrants are ready to go, with hoses spread out across the mountain for firecrews to use.

“The snow blowers are used because they shoot water into the air,” said CNN meteorologist, Taylor Ward.

“Anything that gets moisture in the air is good. Essentially, in the winter they shoot water into the air and it condensates and turns into snow.

“In this case, it was just to attempt to get things wet.”

Heavenly has expressed its gratitude to everyone that helped in the battle against the fire.

“We send a heartfelt THANK YOU from near and far to the firefighters, first responders, mountain ops crews, agency and community leaders, and many other volunteers who have been instrumental in bravely helping to save our home,” the resort said in a statement.

“Your courage, fortitude and fearless spirit have inspired us and united us. We recognize and commend all of the work committed and all of the work still underway to fight this fire.”

See here for our earlier article on PlanetSKI as Sierra-at-Tahoe managed to keep the flames back in a heroic effort and used snow cannons in the battle:

Before the blaze hit the resort of Sierra-at-Tahoe fire fighters and volunteers had made defensible spaces around buildings and sealed off air ducts to keep out embers.

They used snow cannons to douse the buildings and other structures in water.

Staff as the 2,000-acre Sierra-at-Tahoe resort spent days preparing to defend the resort with the help of fire crews and it paid off.

Then it was the turn of Kirkwood with Heavenly also in the firing line.

“The fire has not reached Kirkwood proper,” said the Cal Fire Operations Chief, Eric Schwab.

“We are trying to keep it all on one side of Highway 88. We have structure defence teams ready if the fire were to get there.”

The ski lifts have been used by fire crews to move around the mountain and monitor the blaze.

Snowmaking guns are being used at both Kirkwood and Heavenly.

“As of Aug. 30, Heavenly Mountain Resort is under a Mandatory Evacuation from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection,” said the ski resort of Heavenly in a statement.

“We remain in constant communication and are offering our support to the local Fire Department, Cal Fire and United States Forest Service and updates will be provided as more information becomes available.

“We extend our deepest gratitude to those on the front lines fighting these fires to keep us safe during this difficult time.”

Kirkwood and Heavenly are owned and operated by Vail Resorts.

“We have been working around the clock with emergency fire responders to do everything we can to prepare and protect our resorts,” said a spokesperson for Kirkwood and Heavenly, Susan Whitman.

“This continues to be a rapidly evolving situation and we are in constant communication with Cal Fire, the United States Forest Service fire team, the local Fire Department and other local organizations.”

The resort facilities have also been opened for the emergency crews.

There are 12 ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area.

All are watching the situation closely.

Squaw Valley has closed some hiking paths due to the smoke.

“We are sending our thoughts to our South Lake Tahoe peers, partners, our sister resorts at Heavenly and Kirkwood, and everyone else affected during this time,” said the resort of Northstar.

“Thank you to all of those on the front lines working tirelessly to combat this fire, and please stay safe.”

Northstar has closed its summer operations until at least September 6th to “support the local efforts needed to fight the nearby Caldor Fire.”

The Caldor fire has spread to 199,632 acres and is around 18% contained.

It broke out on 14th  August and has destroyed more than 600 structures, with a further  33,500 threatened.

The blaze is one of 15 huge wildfires currently burning in California.

The US Forest Service has declared that all national forests in California will be closed until 17th September for public safety due to the fires.

The entire city of South Lake Tahoe has been evacuated, along with other communities in the area.

More than 15,000 firefighters, including many from neighbouring states, are working to contain the Caldor Fire.

All eight of the US military’s firefighting aircraft are battling the blaze.

They are operating out of McClellan Park, 100 miles west of Lake Tahoe.

It is the first time in more than a decade that all the aircrafts have been used to tackle a single blaze.

Here at PlanetSKI we are keeping a close eye on the impact on the area’s ski resorts and will be updating this article.

Do check back for the latest…

PlanetSKI hasn’t skied in Lake Tahoe for more than a decade.

See here for our reports from the winter of 2012:

California Dreaming

It’s difficult not to be smug

Skiing in California

Lake Tahoe resorts transformed

Forest fire. Image © PlanetSKI

Forest fire. Image © PlanetSKI