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San Diegans at Caldor Fire: Man makes 500-mile drive from Tahoe, SD Humane Society rescuing animals in fire's path

Tens of thousands of Tahoe residents are having to evacuate their homes as the fast-moving Caldor fire continues to grow and has surpassed 191,000 acres.

SAN DIEGO — Finally home from South Lake Tahoe and unpacking his truck in Rolando Village, Mike Fernandes said he was relieved Tuesday.

"Left at 6 or 6:30 yesterday, and I got home a little after 6:30 today, so it took a while,” said Fernandes, who lived in Tahoe for 10 years, and went back for a visit until the Caldor Fire cut the trip short.

He said you couldn’t see the sun or mountains anymore as the smoke completely filled the sky, and then came the sheriff's deputies' evacuation warning at 4:30 a.m. on Monday.

“We got the knock on the door saying that we need to leave,” Fernandes said.

The Caldor Fire has burned over 191,000 acres since Aug. 14. Many Tahoe residents evacuated overnight, but getting out of town hasn't been easy with road closures and traffic.

"The town is crazy just trying to get out,” said Tahoe evacuee Sara Ellis, who said she didn’t have much time to pack.

Tahoe evacuee Oscar Limon said he and his family were taking the bus.

“This is the worst I have seen it in 32 years,” he said.

The San Diego Humane Society was also in Tahoe this week rescuing animals.

"[We rescued] one cockateel, 24 parakeets and then a chameleon,” said Officer Sandra Anderson.

Officer Joy Ollinger said the team is responding to the animals that have been left behind as some people are on vacation or they have left the area already. Working in the Caldor Fire smoke has been a challenge for the team.

“The air quality is really, really tough. The smoke is unreal. It is raining ash. I don't know if you can see it, but it is like it is snowing out here,” Ollinger said.

The crew has gone from call to call saving some frightened animals. Many miles away, San Diegans are hoping for the best outcome and are grateful for the firefighters.

“I just hope they save South Lake Tahoe because that would be really, really bad if the fire got in the basin and destroyed the city,” Fernandes said.

After 10 days of rescues in South Tahoe, the San Diego Humane Society officers will head back to San Diego on Saturday.

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