Officials: More than 20K structures threatened in Caldor Fire

Wildfire Watch

The Latest — Monday, Aug. 30:

8:20 p.m.

The Caldor Fire is now burning on both sides of Highway 50.

5:30 p.m.

The Caldor Fire has burned 177,260 acres and is 19% contained, fire officials said Monday evening.

More than 20,000 structures are threatened by the fire as it continued on its path to South Lake Tahoe.

A Red Flag warning remains in effect for the area where the fire is burning until Wednesday at 11 p.m., which means winds gusts and dry conditions.

3:20 p.m.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak declared a state of emergency due to the Caldor Fire.

2:55 p.m.

In a live video on Facebook, South Lake Tahoe Lt. Travis Cabral addressed evacuees stuck in traffic.

“So I understand the frustration, I know it’s hard to sit there. We are monitoring everything very closely and this was expected,” Lt. Cabral said. “So please, help us out by staying calm and we’ll get you out of here as soon as possible.”

He also clarified that both sides of the highway are being used, with fire personnel and additional resources traveling toward the firefight and into the city to help vulnerable residents.

11 a.m.

Fire officials have ordered new evacuations for several areas in El Dorado County.

Tahoma, Fallen Leaf, Pioneer, Gardner Mountain, Trimmer, Tahoe Keys, Tahoe Island, Al Tahoe, Sierra Tract, Bijou, Heavenly, and Stateline have been ordered to evacuate.

Fallen Leaf and Tahoma residents should evacuate north on Highway 89 toward Truckee, Cal Fire said. All other areas should evacuate east on Highway 50 toward Nevada.

Original story below:

EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL/AP) — Fire officials ordered more evacuations near Lake Tahoe and told other residents to be ready to leave as the destructive Caldor Fire roared through forests southwest of the alpine lake that straddles the California-Nevada state line.

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. By Monday morning, the Caldor Fire was 177,260 acres — over 276 square miles — and 14% contained.

A Red Flag Warning for critical fire conditions was issued for Monday morning through 11 p.m. Wednesday across the Northern Sierra.

Humidity recovery remained poor overnight into Monday, allowing the fire to continue to actively burn, Cal Fire reported. The current fire behavior is contributed to ember casts traveling up to half a mile.

Cal Fire also said fire-weakened trees and dense, dry vegetation continue to present a risk to crews.

Capt. Stephen Horner with Cal Fire said Monday afternoon the smoke was hampering air attacks over the Lake Tahoe Basin. Airtankers are now focusing on areas north of Highway 88 as the fire threatens Kit Carson and Kirkwood.

Click or tap here to see the current fire perimeter.

By nightfall Sunday, all residents on the California side of the Lake Tahoe Basin were warned to evacuate the region, after fire officials had stressed for days that protecting the area was their top firefighting priority.

South Lake Tahoe’s main medical facility, Barton Memorial Hospital, proactively evacuated 36 patients needing skilled nursing and 16 in acute care beds Sunday, sending them to regional facilities far from the fire, public information officer Mindi Befu said. The rest of the hospital was evacuating following Monday’s expanded orders.

“This fire has shown to be very dynamic,” said Capt. Keith Wade with the Sacramento Fire Department. “It’s done things that are not quite expected.”

The South Lake Tahoe Police Department told FOX40 early Monday morning they’ve been assisting the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, going door to door, telling people to leave.

The fire destroyed multiple residences Sunday along Highway 50, one of the main routes to the south end of the lake. The fire also roared through the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort, destroying secondary buildings but leaving the main buildings at the base intact.

There were reports of cabins burned in the unincorporated community of Echo Lake. The summer-only resort offers cabin rentals, but was ordered to close early for the season by the U.S. Forest Service due to ongoing wildfires.

“At one point, it was moving 165 feet per minute — that’s fast,” Capt. Wade tod FOX40.

“To put it in perspective, we’ve been seeing about a half-mile of movement on the fire’s perimeter each day for the last couple of weeks, and today, this has already moved at 2.5 miles on us, with no sign that it’s starting to slow down,” Cal Fire Division Chief Erich Schwab said Sunday.

The last major blaze in the area took South Lake Tahoe by surprise after blowing up from an illegal campfire in the summer of 2007. The Angora Fire burned less than 5 square miles but destroyed 254 homes, injured three people and forced 2,000 people to flee.

Highway 50 remains closed in both directions from Sly Park Road to Meyers. The Highway closure has been extended east to Sawmill Road.

The Eldorado National Forest is also closed. Forest Service officials out of the Lake Tahoe Basin said backcountry areas of Desolation Wilderness, Meiss County, Barker Park and McKinney/Rubicon are closed until Sept. 19.

Nearly 38,000 people are under evacuation orders as of Monday morning, including nearly 30,000 people in El Dorado County, nearly 4,000 in Amador County and 3,400 in Alpine County.  

A map with current evacuation information can be found by clicking or tapping here.

For online resources and the latest information on evacuation orders, click or tap here.

More than 20,400 structures remain threatened, Cal Fire reported. At least 472 homes, 11 commercial properties and 170 minor structures have been destroyed by the fire. Thirty-nine structures have been damaged.

Capt. Wade told FOX40 damage assessment teams haven’t been able to access areas affected by the flames overnight due to the dangerous conditions.

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

Two civilians were severely injured in Grizzly Flats days after the fire sparked. No other civilian injuries have been reported.

Three firefighters were injured over the weekend, Cal Fire reported. At this time, the extent of their injuries is unknown.

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office is trying to locate 57-year-old Marvin Hardy Creel, a man who went missing while evacuating from Grizzly Flats.

The Caldor Fire is burning in challenging terrain, making access difficult for crews.

Firefighting helicopters are working daily, filling up with retardant, a major weapon against the stubborn flames, from a mobile base in Placerville.

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

Evacuation information can also be found on the social media pages of local law enforcement.

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]
  • Douglas County Community Center at 1329 Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville, NV, in Douglas County
  • Truckee Veterans Hall at 10214 High Street in Truckee, CA, in Nevada County
  • Carson City Community Center at 851 East William Street in Carson City, NV, in Douglas County

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.

El Dorado County has opened a Local Assistance Center to provide county and state services and provide resources and information to residents impacted by the Caldor Fire. The center is located at the Folsom Lake Community College El Dorado campus. Click or tap here for additional information.

From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., residents can also call the Caldor Fire information line at 530-303-2455.

The cause of the Caldor Fire remains under investigation.

Click or tap here for additional information.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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