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Thick Layer Of Unhealthy Smoke Draped Over Lake Tahoe Basin

TRUCKEE (CBS SF) -- Visitors flock to the Lake Tahoe area every August to enjoy the region's picturesque mountainous vistas, it's beaches, hiking trails and crisp, clean air.

But that's not the case this year as wildfires including the nearby Caldor Fire have layered the skies with thick, unhealthy smoke.

Across the lake early Tuesday, air quality levels ranged from extremely unhealthy to hazardous, forcing vacationers from the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere to shelter indoor or simply cut their visits short.

"Right now in the Tahoe Basin we have a lot of smoke, people have left simply to get to cleaner air," said South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief Clive Savacool.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) for the area of Tahoe City on the west side of the lake was reading as high as 309 Tuesday morning.

While the Bay Area has had a string of air quality advisories since last week due to the wildfire smoke, government air monitors were measuring some of the worst air quality in years in the Tahoe area, as well as for large parts of Western Nevada including the Reno-Sparks region.

The National Weather Service office in Reno was projecting some improvement for areas on Wednesday, though the Tahoe region and western Nevada south of Highway 50 will continue to have hazardous and unhealthy conditions.

The heavy smoke on Monday led to the cancelation of flights and forced the closure of schools, parks and popular summer beaches.

Nevada State Parks closed its land around Lake Tahoe on the California line until Friday, depending on conditions, including at a popular beach at Sand Harbor near Incline Village.

Among those staying for now is Lorraine Ramirez, who was visiting from San Jose. Her family thought about cancelling their plans, but finally decided to head to the Sierra.

"We considered to cancel because of the weather conditions and our guests getting here, however the show had to go on," she said.

Cal Fire Incident Commander Dusty Martin said he has received numerous emails asking when the skies will clear. Mother Nature and the fire lines manned by thousands of firefighters will determine that.

"As long as we have active burning and active fire run, we will see the smoke issues in and around," Martin said. "It's being compounded not only by this fire but the multiple other fires burning in the north state. It all depends on the wind direction pushing that smoke from one area to the next. We will see those conditions around for sometime."

"We considered to cancel because of the weather conditions and our guests getting here, however the show had to go on."

The Caldor Fire had grown to 117,704 acres and was 9% contained as of Tuesday morning, while the Dixie Fire was at 731,310 acres and 40% containment.

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