As fierce wildfires ravaged California, residents were forced to leave their homes. Many were evacuated as the Caldor Fire moved closer to densely populated areas. While roads were clogged with cars of residents fleeing to safety, one man’s violin performance against the backdrop of orange skies filled with fumes has gone viral.
Netizens later said that the situation reminded them of the scene from the film Titanic where the band played on even as the ship was sinking.
As the entire California resort city of South Lake Tahoe was ordered to evacuate, it prompted chaotic scenes, with roads leading to safety being blocked by people trying to escape. Residents stood outside their cars, waiting for the traffic congestion to clear up. This was when long-time Tahoe area resident Mel Smothers surprised everyone with an impromptu violin performance.
Standing outside his yellow vehicle, Smothers played his instrument while being stuck in eastbound evacuation traffic on Highway 50, SF Chronical reported. A video captured by Alvin A.H. Jornada, a photojournalist with the newspaper, was posted on various social media platforms, after which it went viral.
Watch the video here:
As he played the “Tennessee Waltz”, his violin kept him occupied and other residents entertained as well during the long wait. However, talking to The Press Democrat , he admitted the experience was still nerve-wracking. “There was a little bit of anxiety there,” he said. “Like, is the fire going to catch up to us while we’re sitting there?”
As his photos and videos went viral, netizens were reminded of the iconic scene from Titanic where the band on the cruise ship played while the ship was sinking. Others thanked the musician for doing his bit to calm down people in the tense situation.
— Alexander Stuart (@AlexChowStuart) August 31, 2021
Instantly thought of Titanic too
— Laurel (@00LaurelJ) August 30, 2021
Like the orchestra playing while the Titanic sank….😢
— Hilary Bartels, M.D. (@HilaryBartels3) August 30, 2021
“Comforting” and “soothing” are two words that do not come to mind.
— Wyatt (@dww) August 31, 2021
This hurts to see. Like the band playing as the ship goes down. But this ship is beautiful Lake Tahoe and for my entire life I can remember Tahoe being one of the most environmentally friendly places in CA and it’s going to be hit by the impacts of climate change. I’m so sad.
— C. (@C83nonstop) August 30, 2021
The best of humanity.
— emerald nesh (@emerald_gnesh) August 30, 2021
Sending you all love and protection. Glad to hear the beautiful music. 🙏🏼💙❤️
— Michelle Franck, M.S., MFT (@MichelleFranck) August 31, 2021
Same energy. pic.twitter.com/FH1xc6E8gB
— MountainsMama (@MamaMountains) August 30, 2021
Well, that made me cry. Tahoe is so special. It takes up such a huge space in my place identity. This is just devastating. I will pray for the people but also that gem of a place.
— J (@jlemay78) August 30, 2021
It’s rough time in Tahoe right now. There are a lot of people making it just a little sweeter. Thank you, Mel 🎻 ❤️ https://t.co/8Bp6A651TP
— SmittyGal (@SmittyGal) August 31, 2021
— Kristin Urquiza #MarkedByCOVID (@kdurquiza) August 31, 2021
Tennessee Waltz maybe? How beautifully tragic. God bless these people affected by the fires.😢 https://t.co/c29cCqSc5X
— 🌛🌹Theresa Martinez Flannery 🌹🌜💉 (@yekdeli) August 30, 2021
Lake Tahoe, a popular summer vacation spot normally filled with thousands of tourists, emptied out Monday as the massive Caldor Fire rapidly expanded. Vehicles loaded with bikes and camping gear and hauling boats were stuck in traffic snarls, with the air being filled with smoke.
There are currently 3,684 personnel, 25 helicopters, 353 engines, and others working to put out the blaze, Business Insider said.
According to Reuters, the fire has been active for 14 days and has spread across 168,387 acres, leading to evacuation orders in multiple counties. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the fire is 13% contained and has damaged 39 residential, commercial and other structures, while destroying over 650 such structures so far.