September 24 2021 03:30 pm

South Lake Tahoe OK for now; Caldor Fire fight not over

Wildfire Watch

Cal Fire officials will update the community on the Caldor Fire at 5 p.m. Watch live below.

The Latest – Thursday, Sept. 2

9:24 p.m.

The United States Coast Guard is asking mariners to not go onto Lake Tahoe’s waters until the wildfires subsided.

9 p.m.

The Caldor Fire has burned 210,893 acres and is at 27% containment.

1:25 p.m.

Emergency officials in Douglas County, Nevada said the Round Hill region was removed from its evacuation orders.

These areas are still under a mandatory evacuation order:

  • Upper Kingsbury (South)
  • Upper Kingsbury (North)
  • Central Kingsbury
  • Lower Kingsbury
  • Lower Olivers, Kahle Drive region and roads
  • Lake Village
  • Areas south of Elks Point Road

10:30 a.m.

Cal Fire reports some evacuation warnings in El Dorado County have been lifted. Warnings that have been canceled are in: Cement Hill, Farnham Ridge, Cosumnes, Mt. Aukum, Coyoteville, Mosquito and Carson White Oak.

West Omo, Omo Ranch and Barney Ridge evacuation orders have been downgraded to warnings. Click or tap here for the full evacuation update.

Original story below:

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KTXL/AP) — Better weather on Thursday helped the battle against the Caldor Fire, which is threatening communities around Lake Tahoe, but fire commanders warned firefighters to be prepared for ongoing dangers.

Strong winds and dry conditions that drove the Caldor Fire east through high elevations of the Sierra Nevada for days faded, sparing for now the largest city of a recreational gem that straddles the California-Nevada state line. Thousands were forced to flee South Lake Tahoe earlier this week.

“I feel like we are truly the luckiest community in the entire world right now. I’m so incredibly happy,” said Mayor Tamara Wallace, who evacuated to Truckee.

The U.S. Forest Service said the fire began 4 miles south of Grizzly Flats and 2 miles east of Omo Ranch in the Eldorado National Forest Saturday, Aug. 14. Thursday morning, the Caldor Fire was 210,259 acres — over 328 square miles — and 25% contained.

Click or tap here to see the current fire perimeter.

Nearly 54,000 people are under evacuation orders as of Wednesday, including over 53,000 people in El Dorado County, 61 in Amador County and 100 in Alpine County.  

At least 32,387 structures remain threatened by the fire, Cal Fire reported. More than 800 structures, including 622 homes, have been destroyed. Forty-four structures have been damaged. 

Officials are updating a map indicating the current known status of structures. Click here to view the map.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden issued a federal emergency declaration and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local resources for firefighting efforts and relief for residents in El Dorado, Amador, Alpine and Placer counties.

“I’ve seen these firefighters up close. Their courage is astounding, and they’re some of the bravest people I’ve ever known — and I’ve known a lot of them,” he said from the White House on Thursday, addressing his administration’s response to Hurricane Ida.

Wind gusts were likely in some areas, and the forest was still extremely dry, officials warned.

Still, the mood was one of optimism, given the speed with which the fire grew earlier in the week. Flames raced so quickly toward the resort city that officials ordered a mass evacuation of all 22,000 residents on Monday before ordering those across the state line in Douglas County, Nevada, to leave a day later.

“It’s finally a chance to take a breath,” said Clive Savacool, chief of South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue. “It’s a breath full of smoke. Nonetheless, I think we’re all breathing a little bit easier and we feel like we’re making some progress.”

Russ Crupi, who two days ago was arranging sprinklers around his mobile home park in South Lake Tahoe just miles from the fire line, had turned off the water for now, feeling confident his neighborhood was no longer under threat. The nearby mountains, cloaked in smoke for most of the week, had become visible.

“I’m just happy they stopped it. It looked close,” he said.

About 15 million people visit Lake Tahoe every year for hiking, snowboarding, water sports and gambling. The possibility that wildfire might rip through the international destination alarmed those who have vivid memories of vacationing at Tahoe.

California has experienced increasingly larger and deadlier wildfires in recent years as climate change has made the West much warmer and drier over the past 30 years. Scientists have said weather will continue to be more extreme and wildfires more frequent, destructive and unpredictable. No deaths have been reported so far this fire season.

Fire crews from around the country joined in the fight against the fire, which broke out Aug. 14 southwest of the Lake Tahoe area, chasing residents from more remote areas of El Dorado County.

A public information officer said Wednesday a Cal Fire firefighter was burned and flown to Sacramento for treatment. That same day, volunteer firefighter Richard Gerety III underwent skin graft surgery after he was burned by the flames of the Caldor Fire on Aug. 28.

On Wednesday, firefighters were ferried by boat to protect cabins at nearby Echo Lake, while three of the region’s largest ski resorts, Heavenly, Kirkwood and Sierra at Tahoe, brought out snow-making devices to hose down buildings.

Jonathan Pierce, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said crews are chasing spot fires and trying to keep flames away from populated areas.

There was no timeline for when residents might return.

South Lake Tahoe can easily accommodate 100,000 people on a busy weekend, but on Thursday, just before the Labor Day weekend, it was eerily empty. Thick smoke made it difficult to see across the street, said Savacool, the fire chief.

“It’s really just a dead, dead town and it’s got an apocalyptic feel with garbage strewn about from the bears,” he said.

More than 15,000 firefighters were battling dozens of California blazes, including another monstrous blaze, the Dixie Fire about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north. It is the second-largest wildfire in state history at about 1,340 square miles (3,480 square kilometers).

The weeks-old fire was 55% contained. As of Thursday, officials said it had destroyed 688 homes, eight multi-unit residences, 139 commercial properties and hundreds of minor structures.

For the latest Cal Fire information on evacuation orders, click or tap here.

Residents can sign up for their county’s emergency alert system for evacuation information using the links below:

Evacuation information can also be found at the social media pages and sites below:

The following locations have been listed as evacuation centers: 

  • Green Valley Church at 3500 Missouri Flat Road in Placerville, CA, in El Dorado County
  • Cameron Park Community Center at 2502 Country Club Drive in Cameron Park, CA, in El Dorado County
  • Rolling Hills Church at 800 White Rock Road in El Dorado Hills, CA, in El Dorado County
  • Italian Picnic Grounds at 581 Highway 49 in Sutter Creek, CA, in Amador County [TEMPORARY]
  • Truckee Veterans Hall at 10214 High Street in Truckee, CA, in Nevada County
  • Douglas County Community Center at 1329 Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville, NV, in Douglas County: For Douglas County residents only
  • Reno-Sparks Convention Center at 4590 South Virginia Street in Reno, NV, in Washoe County
  • Dayton Event Center/Rodeo Grounds at 500 Schaad Lane in Dayton, NV, in Lyon County: Has room for 100-150 recreational vehicles; Dry camp only
  • Lyon County Fairgrounds at 100 95A East in Yerington, NV, in Lyon County: Has room for 200+ recreational vehicles and can also house large animals at the fairgrounds; Dry camp only 

Families who need assistance sheltering small animals can contact the El Dorado County Animal Services at 530-621-5795. Families with large animals can contact the Amador County Fairgrounds at 530-621-5795 or 530-647-6227.

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