Raging wildfire threatens Lake Tahoe: Residents cover their homes with aluminum

Weather She Wrote

Tonight, the usually heaving town of South Lake Tahoe is deserted. Tens of thousands of residents have evacuated in fear of the fast-approaching Caldor wildfire.

This wildfire has scorched nearly 200,000 acres of land, and it’s just 20 percent contained.

Now, the residents of South Lake Tahoe are under evacuation orders.

So far, the wildfire has destroyed more than 500 homes. Even the iconic Lake Tahoe ski resort is under threat.

Resort workers are using snow blowers to try and tackle the flames.

Tahoe hasn’t seen a fire of this size and ferocity for nearly 80 years, so residents are taking it seriously.

Some residents have completely wrapped their homes in fire-resistant material.

I will admit — it’s something I have never personally seen. Fortunately, here in Savannah, the only time we really dealt with wildfires on a bigger extreme was more than 10 years ago. That was when the Okefenokee Swamp was burning and all of the smoke pushed into the Savannah area.

So upon doing some research, I found more information on these huge “fire blankets.”

The idea of wrapping houses in fire-resistant materials to protect them goes back to at least 1944. This is when a patent was filed.

Now, fire blankets are sold commercially.

Even US Forest Service firefighters carry personal shelters – like tiny tents – made of fire-resistant material to use as a last resort when trapped by flames. They have been routinely wrapping historic forest cabins in this material.

Experts say the best-performing blankets were fabrics made of fiberglass or amorphous silica laminated with heat-reflecting aluminum foil. These can provide up to 10 minutes of protection from intense heat, which can be enough to save a structure from fast-moving wildfires.

While these blankets can provide good protection, it can take several hours to properly wrap even a small structure. And unfortunately, most households don’t get that much warning.

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