The threat of wildfire looms over all of California, from sea to valley to mountain peaks. Should a fire flare up along Lake Tahoe’s shores, a lot more than the Tahoe aesthetic would be at risk. This painting shares a snapshot of current summer celebration conditions in Tahoe City versus the potential catastrophic effects of a future wildfire that could snuff it all out in an instant.
1) WATERWAYS: High-intensity fires burn hot and fast, not only destroying tree canopy, but dumping remains of scorched soil into nearby streams and rivers, thereby reducing lake clarity. If the sediment loading remains long enough, it can be detrimental to the water’s biology and kill fish populations.
2)RECREATION: Tahoe’s natural beauty, size, and clarity is what draws many people to play on the lake. Take away the recreational opportunities in and out of the water — boating, fishing, cycling, running — due to wildfire ripping through the landscape, and you’re left with charred remains.
3)WILDLIFE: Animals tend to scatter during fire — by air, land, or, for larger mammals, by sea (taking refuge in waterways). Smaller creatures may burrow into the ground or utilize logs and rocks as hiding places to wait out the blaze. Sensitive species like owls and goshawks, which nest in locations of higher tree density, can be most vulnerable because those dense areas of forest are quickest to flame.
4)EVACUATION: Four evacuation routes have been identified by local officials out of North Tahoe, per the North Tahoe Fire District. However, many of these routes are one lane each way, leaving minimal amounts of space for escape in an emergency.
5)SMOKE: Sustained smoke yields substantial health impacts for people (and animals!), regardless of age and health levels.
6)POWER: Not only can power lines trigger fires (i.e. 2018 Camp Fire which was officially attributed to PG&E lines), but downed lines can result in full power outages.
7)VEGETATION: While regular low intensity burns clear away unwanted underbrush, extremely hot fires can result in plant mortality.