With the Caldor Fire now 71% contained and the city of South Lake Tahoe deemed safe to return to, some firefighters were packing up to leave town in recent days, and a large group of city residents gathered to cheer for them on Tuesday.
Holding signs that said things like "Bless your selfless duty," residents thanked the firefighters and took photos with them, thankful that their homes and businesses were spared from the wildfire that began over a month ago.
ABC 10 reports, the gathering happened at an intersection near the Cal Fire's base camp at Heavenly Resort, where a few residents have been showing their gratitude over the previous several nights when the firefighters' shift change happens. The gathering grew in size by Tuesday — though it's not clear from the report how many firefighters have actually left the area.
This is incredible!— Madison Wade (@madisoncwade) September 15, 2021
Hundreds of people gathered in South Lake Tahoe to thank and say goodbye to all the firefighters who helped save their city!
This happened as many firefighters were leaving town to go home after the #CaldorFire so they were very surprised ❤️ pic.twitter.com/IHCythRs07
A heartwarming scene in South Lake Tahoe as locals thank firefighters for their efforts on the #CaldorFire. Video by Angie Mizgireva. pic.twitter.com/OxDi1Of76n— Active NorCal (@ActiveNorCal) September 15, 2021
One woman, Deanna Heinrikson, who had repeatedly been coming out to the intersection said, "It doubled and doubled until last night when there were at least 500 people."
The video below is from Monday night, when a similar gathering happened along the road.
Residents who returned to the evacuated area of South Lake Tahoe, California, showed their appreciation for firefighters battling the 219,267-acre Caldor Fire. pic.twitter.com/GDKX1DAWBo— Newsweek (@Newsweek) September 16, 2021
Our crew is headed home after a 14 day deployment to South Lake Tahoe battling the Caldor Fire.— CK Fire and Rescue (@CKFireRescue) September 13, 2021
We look forward to the return of Lt. Bill Green, AO Marcus Oliver and PM Zach Smith.
~ PIO LiMarzi pic.twitter.com/qDcPABkDNG
"The thing that got me and made me cry every time, of all the states they've been through, they've never seen the outpouring of support like this," Heinrikson tells ABC 10. "They saved our homes and businesses."
Evacuation orders were lifted for much of South Lake Tahoe early last week, and now the remaining communities of Christmas Valley and Meyers that were under evacuation orders are now under evacuation warnings. Full containment of the fire is expected by the end of the month.
South Lake Tahoe, a city of 22,000 people, was evacuated starting August 30 as the Caldor Fire bore down on the area. Luckily, the weather cooperated and firefighters were able to keep the fire in the mountains outside of most of the Tahoe basin.
"This has been emotionally draining for weeks over numerous concerns, but we are resilient, and the countless ways our community has come together to support one another is heartwarming," said Carol Chaplin, president and CEO of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, in a statement. "We have so much to be thankful for, with the heroic men and women who saved our lives and community... Perhaps the ultimate takeaway is to realize the fragility of our resources and the vulnerability of the places we love."