SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — California’s emergency response leaders gave an update Monday on their efforts to combat the state’s multiple wildfires, calling the Caldor Fire their top priority.
As nine large and active wildfires continue to burn hundreds of thousands of acres across California, several hundred fire engines and 13,000 fire personnel on the ground are being stretched to their limits.
“These conditions that we’re facing are climate-driven, fast-moving, super hot, super dry, in a drought and we’re dealing with this all in a COVID environment,” said Director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Mark Ghilarducci.
The main concern for California’s emergency response teams is the Caldor Fire in El Dorado County. It has destroyed more than 400 homes and businesses and is inching closer to a critical location for those fighting the fire.
“It is knocking on the door to the Lake Tahoe Basin. We have all efforts in place to keep it out of the basin,” said Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter.
According to Porter, Cal Fire is getting more air assistance from Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura counties to conduct nighttime fire suppression operations to help increase the Caldor Fire’s containment.
“Three aircraft have been here for the last several days and last night was the first night that we had clear enough air where it was safe enough to fly them,” Porter explained. “And it was used effectively last night in keeping some of the fire in check in and around that westside of the fire.”
More air support is also coming in from the National Guard.
“We have seven Air Force air tankers that are in the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve that are flying retardant missions, operations,” said California National Guard Major General David Baldwin. “They flew 31 sorties yesterday and they’re hammering the Caldor Fire yesterday pretty hard.”
But the extremely dry conditions of El Dorado’s timber basket are creating unprecedented circumstances for firefighters on the frontlines.
“The relative dryness of not only what moisture’s in the soil but also what moisture is in the plants and the trees is making fires in the forest burn in ways that we haven’t seen,” Porter said.
Porter and the others said the mutual aid response they’ve received from state, federal and out-of-state resources continue to be lifesavers during this difficult firefight.
They also said they plan to continue rotating fire personnel to help them rest and nighttime air fire suppression operations if the smoke allows.