As Californians rush to escape wildfire, a solo violinist brings calm to traffic jam

6 September 2021, 12:02 | Updated: 6 September 2021, 16:40

As Californians rush to escape wildfire, a solo violinist brings calm to traffic jam
As Californians rush to escape wildfire, a solo violinist brings calm to traffic jam. Picture: Kent Porter/Twitter

By Rosie Pentreath

The poignant moment where music brings comfort amidst the chaos of the Caldor Fire evacuation.

A violinist has brought comfort to those caught in a traffic jam during a Californian wildfire evacuation.

South Lake Tahoe man, Mel Smothers, has been filmed playing a reflective tune outside his car, as people queue to escape the Caldor Fire in California.

The moment, which was captured in a video now viewed hundreds of thousands of times, was no doubt a welcome distraction to those whose lives have been uprooted by the devastating fire.

Read more: Amid rocket fire, violinist plays poignant Brahms in a bomb shelter during Israel-Gaza conflict

Smothers told The Press Democrat: “I like playing a lot, so it didn’t take a lot of time for me to decide I didn’t want to waste time sitting in my car.”

So he took out his violin and played an excerpt from ‘Tennessee Waltz’.

“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?”

Mel’s music may be mighty, and mighty welcome, but in the face of the devastating Caldor Fire it can only bring temporary comfort.

The Caldor Fire alone has scorched an area larger than San Diego, and has destroyed hundreds of buildings and injured five people.

Within a month, the blaze has cost businesses in the area an estimated $40 million combined revenue loss.

Read more: Violinists serenade shoppers in empty toilet paper aisle with ‘Titanic’ hymn

It’s “like the orchestra playing while the Titanic sank,” viewers of the video have tweeted.

Others have shared thanks, and offered condolences to those having to flee their homes in the Caldor evacuations.

“The priority for the destination is getting this fire under control and helping those affected,” president and chief executive of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, Carol Chaplin, has said in a statement.

“We thank all the firefighters, city, county and emergency organisations and personnel involved with our protection for their leadership in coordinating efforts on a daily basis.”

Mel Smothers is an American artist based at Lake Tahoe.