The Wildfire Evacuation Dilemma: How Not to Become Lahaina

wildfire smoke in lake tahoe mountains

Fact Check US 50: Is Lake Tahoe Basin Well-Prepared for Wildfires ?

If you live in South Lake Tahoe or along the East Shore, are you confident that your family can safely evacuate along US Hwy 50 if a major wildfire threatens your home?

According to public records obtained from the Caltrans Division of Research, Innovation and System Information, Nevada does not “currently use or have plans to use modeling tools and other practices to evaluate potential emergency wildfire evacuation routes when designing road improvements for highways in areas with high fire potential.”  Neither the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) nor Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) have conducted any detailed analysis of traffic congestion issues associated with the evacuation of the City of South Lake Tahoe, Stateline casinos, and residents and visitors along the Tahoe East Shore in the event of a substantial wildfire breakout in the Lake Tahoe Basin during the Summer peak season.

The Tahoe East Shore Alliance conducted a summary traffic flow analysis which indicated a massive loss of life should a Caldor-type wildfire threaten the South and East shores of Lake Tahoe.  It also shows consistency with real-world conditions leading to the massive loss of life in Paradise, CA4 and Maui, HI5, when wildfires broke out in these evacuation-constrained communities.


Actions that can—and should—be taken by government authorities to improve the evacuation and survival rates include:

  • Improve forestry management practices in the Lake Tahoe Basin to mitigate the severity and spread of wildfires.
  • Reduce time between wildfire detection and evacuation order.
  • Further reduce wildfire spread rate through additional personnel and enhanced firefighting infrastructure.
  • Increase (not decrease) road capacity within the US 50 East Shore corridor.


➔ For full report, see The Wildfire Evacuation Dilemma — A South Lake Tahoe Story.


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East Shore residents have been asking NDOT for serious modeling and simulation to demonstrate safety benefits of CMP. Here is their response.

What are your thoughts on the NDOT/TRPA plans for a road diet on US HWY 50?

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