By Laura Haefeli

EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) – The Caldor Fire is picking up steam, raging down Echo Summit and into the Tahoe Basin.

The intersection of 50 and 89 in South Lake Tahoe is normally where traffic would be backed up with people preparing for the last holiday weekend of the summer but California’s summer hot spot is a ghost town as the Caldor Fire charges towards Lake Tahoe.

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Officials gave early evacuation orders giving Tahoe tourists and residents time to get out.

“Get yourself and your family and get away from the area,” said Sacramento Fire Department Chief Gary Loesch.

We drove east on Highway 50 from Echo Summit to South Lake Tahoe, nearly trapped by flames on both sides. The Caldor Fire is moving quickly through the Tahoe basin — embers flying outside of the containment line sparking new fires.

Fire crews are caught off guard, battling to control the fire as roadways back up with traffic.

“As unfortunate as it is that everyone is stuck in a traffic jam,” said Loesch. “At least everyone’s got the chance to…load their family and pets, if they can, get in the vehicle and start moving away from here.”

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We met Chief Loesch at Camp Sacramento, which is just miles from the head of the fire.

“Sometimes people will say, ‘oh my god, the fire’s not even close…and you’re sending us out,” he said.

Chief Loesch knows what happens if evacuations aren’t ordered fast enough.

“We were both on the Camp Fire. We saw cars littered on the highways. If there’s something we learned there it’s let’s get everybody out quicker before everybody has to bail out of their cars and go running down the roads,” he said.

The wind is the biggest issue for fire crews. Firefighters hope it will be in their favor tonight and calm down.

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