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'A Punch In The Gut': Tourists Told To Stay Out Of Tahoe Amid Fire Concerns

NORTH LAKE TAHOE (CBS13) — Barren beaches aren't the norm this time of year in North Lake Tahoe. As businesses would usually be doing everything they could to bring in visitors, tourists are actually being told to stay out of Tahoe right now.

A stack of unused kayaks, empty hillside condos and signs marked "closed" are not a good look for the tourist hot spot on Labor Day weekend.

"We just drove through and everything is shut down there. The gondolas are shut down," said visitor Nate Veal. "This is our second time ever being up here. Haven't discovered what's here, but it does look very very slow, very scarce."

"Normally it's a traffic jam at King's Beach, and normally you have to wait in line for an hour to have lunch. There just aren't many people around," said visitor Arthur Fox.

"A lot of the trails that we wanted to do and the hikes have been closed because they're part of the forests," said visitor Theo Mikesel.

"The whole beach would be full of guests. They'd be kayaking, paddleboarding," said Alex Mourelatos, general manager of Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort.

It's a hard hit for Mourelatos. The lodging owner calls the Caldor Fire a "punch in the gut" for North Lake Tahoe. The fire has cost him more than both COVID shutdowns considering it happened in August, the second-biggest month of the year after July.

"It's kind of devastating. And it's a shame," Mourelatos told CBS13. "They don't get to have their summer vacation. And especially after COVID, that's what really stings."

The Incline Village Visitors Bureau is telling tourists to stay away.

"We're telling folks 'love us from afar right now.' Come back and visit us real soon," said CEO Andy Chapman.

Chapman worries there could be more evacuations. Right now you can see about five miles across the lake, but on a clear day, you can see 24 miles across and even catch a glimpse of the Heavenly ski slopes. Those hazy skies are a daunting reminder that they're not out of the woods.

"We certainly understand people's interest and support of Tahoe, but we have to keep these roads open for future possible evacuation routes. We need to keep these roads open for emergency vehicles," said Chapman.

"It's just a feeling of we're very lucky to be up here while the sky is still blue. And at any moment we may have to get in our cars and head back down the hill to the Bay area. And that's life in California at the moment," said Fox.

Tahoe tourism officials are not telling people to cancel their plans. They're hoping everyone will simply reschedule their Labor Day trips so they can host visitors when the time is right. Mourelatos hopes the fire concerns will end in the next couple of weeks so they can move on to a good Fall season.

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