Brian Hunter hadn’t yet been ordered to leave his South Lake Tahoe home. But, thinking back to how a wildfire tore through the town of Paradise three years ago and killed 85 people, he didn’t want to risk it. As flames crept toward the Tahoe Basin, he and his partner loaded the car with their belongings, their dog, and two cats, and drove off into the haze. Behind them, a wall of thick brown smoke bore down on the city.
“It looked like death,” Hunter, a 38-year-old freelance writer, said. “You couldn’t see sky.”