Stories that shaped the year: Fatal Truckee airplane crash, Caldor Fire top the list


Firefighters provide structure protection off South Upper Truckee Road in the Christmas Valley as the Caldor Fire makes its way into the Tahoe Basin.
Elias Funez
“It’s really thrilling and exciting to get this going, said Colin West. “The team of people that have been with me has been truly amazing.”
Clean Up The Lake

The Truckee-Tahoe region experienced much change in 2021.

The pandemic continued to shape daily life throughout the year, while the region experienced a historic wildfire season. Through it all, the community showed its resiliency while those living in the area displayed an eagerness to help out whenever and wherever they could.


The TBID, or Tourism Business Improvement District, is something that’s been discussed for years.

In March, the Placer County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved of the formation of the North Lake Tahoe Tourism Business Improvement District.

Under the new district, which proponents say gives more local control of funding, the lodging sector is assessed 2%, except at Palisades Tahoe and Northstar, which will be assessed at 1% due to already having their own assessment districts. Other sectors like retailers, restaurants, and outdoor activity providers are assessed at 1% on revenues greater than $150,000. Businesses earning less than $150,000 will be subject to a flat fee.

The formation of the tourism improvement district is anticipated to generate $6.1 million annually — of that roughly $3.15 million is designated primarily for marketing, promotions, and special events.


Tragedy struck Truckee in late July as six people died in a plane crash near the Truckee Tahoe Airport.

A twin turbo Bombardier went down in heavily treed terrain near the airport, killing everyone aboard.

No people on the ground were harmed. The crash caused a small wildfire about a half-mile down Reynold Way, which was contained at a quarter-acre.

Following the crash, the Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board voted to cancel the annual Truckee Tahoe Airshow & Family Festival.

The July tragedy came about a month after one person died and another was injured in a private airplane crash at the Truckee airport.


Earlier this year Clean Up the Lake launched its campaign to dive the 72 miles of the lake’s shoreline. As of mid-November, the team had covered more than 43 miles and removed more than 21,000 items, which equal more than 18,200 pounds of litter.

Divers are now at 60% complete.

The project kicked off May 14 at Edgewood Tahoe on the South Shore. The divers have been traveling counterclockwise around the lake.

Executive Director Colin West expected some areas to be light on trash, and was surprised when the team of divers discovered a field of discarded bottles.

“I was like, ‘You know, I don’t think we’re going to see much trash,'” said West. “We get down there and all of a sudden we’re in a glass graveyard — glass bottles all over the place. Even with all of the experience and the hundreds of dives I’ve had cleaning up the lake in Tahoe, I was surprised. I was blown away at how much we pulled out of that area.”


After more than 70 years of operating with a term deemed derogatory by many Native Americans, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows changed its name to Palisades Tahoe.

The resort announced it would drop the term from its name more than a year ago, and in September officially announced the change.

“The Washoe people have lived in the area for thousands of years; we have great reverence for our ancestors, history and lands,” said Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California Tribal Chairman Serrell Smokey in a news release. “We are very pleased with this decision; today is a day that many have worked towards for decades. The Washoe Tribal Council recognizes the significance of the name change and on behalf of the Washoe people expresses its great appreciation for this positive step forward.”

The base area is now called Olympic Valley, while Alpine Meadows will continue to be the name of the resorts’ other base area. The village on the Olympic Valley side has been renamed The Village at Palisades Tahoe. Other features like Squaw Creek and Squaw Peak require local government approval to be changed. Local tribal leaders are actively working to have those names changed.


During the height of the Caldor Fire, the Truckee-Tahoe area experienced a dramatic shift in tourism due to smoke, forest closures, and the necessity of a clear exit for evacuees coming from South Lake.

These events had adverse effects for many tourist industries that had also been hit hard by the pandemic, and right before “slow season,” when tourism takes a downward trend after it spikes in the summertime.

In late August, as well as early September, many businesses driven by tourism, the outdoor industry in particular, were experiencing high volume cancellations. Some businesses had even paused their operations as the entire area braced itself for the Caldor Fire.

Many of these businesses were also forced to shut down at the start of the pandemic. For those that were able to recover, the fires had added another obstacle to overcome.

The Caldor Fire burned more than 220,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 structures before being put out.

Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at

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