September 24 2021 03:30 pm

Crews battle 126K-acre Caldor Fire as community worries flames will reach South Lake Tahoe

Wildfire Watch

EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL/AP) — Fire crews continue to battle the fast-moving, destructive Caldor Fire in Eldorado National Forest, focusing on stopping the flames from moving toward South Lake Tahoe.

The U.S. Forest Service said the fire began 4 miles south of Grizzly Flats and 2 miles east of Omo Ranch Saturday, Aug. 14. By Wednesday morning, the Caldor Fire was 126,182 acres — over 197 square miles — and 11% contained.

The fire is headed toward Echo Summit, which drops down into the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“Years ago, I would have never thought that we’d be having Tahoe as a threat,” Sacramento Fire Department Captain Keith Wade said. “Over the last couple of years, now we’re starting to realize that anything’s possible.”

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 Twin Bridges. The highway will be open to residents with proof of residency between Myers and Twin Bridges. 

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.

Click or tap here to see the current fire perimeter.

Approximately 24,500 people in El Dorado County are under evacuation orders as of Wednesday morning.

More than 17,480 structures remain threatened, Cal Fire reported. At least 461 homes, 11 commercial properties and 165 minor structures have been destroyed by the fire. Thirty-four structures have been damaged.

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 last week.

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

“Apparently, when they found his truck, somewhere abandoned, it still had everything in it,” Creel’s nephew, Jim Bradford, told FOX40.

If seen, contact authorities at 530-642-4714.

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

Fire crews said the fire is burning in challenging terrain, making access difficult. 

“The terrain, the way it is in this area, is very steep and very rugged and fire will tend to create its own weather, too,” explained Diana Swart, with Cal Fire’s Amador-El Dorado Unit. “And that terrain-driven wind is what we’ve got our eyes on right now.”

Over the weekend, officials told FOX40 air attacks were the main course of action as crews dropped over 41,000 gallons of water and over 17,000 gallons of retardant over the fire Sunday. 

Wednesday morning, fire crews reported a change in wind patterns Tuesday, which helped decrease fire activity. Cal Fire continues to deal with spot fires in the southwest and northeast portions of the fire.

Officials emphasized the importance of following evacuation orders and warnings as soon as they’re given. 

“When the warnings occur, traffic trickles out of those communities,” California Highway Patrol Chief Mike Dust explained. “When an order happens, that turns into traffic jams, and it becomes very difficult for people to escape.”

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

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: 

  • Cameron Park Community Center at 2502 Country Club Drive in Cameron Park, CA, in El Dorado County [FULL]
  • Green Valley Church at 3500 Missouri Flat Road in Placerville, CA, in El Dorado County
  • Amador Fairgrounds at 18621 Sherwood Street in Plymouth, CA, in Amador County
  • Evelyn Bishop Hall at 701 CA 124 in Ione, CA, in Amador County
  • Rolling Hills Church at 800 White Rock Road in El Dorado Hills, CA, in El Dorado County
  • Douglas County Community Center at 1329 Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville, 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.

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

Following a request from California leaders, President Joe Biden on Tuesday declared that a major disaster exists in California and ordered federal aid made available to local governments, agencies and fire victims in Lassen, Nevada, Placer and Plumas counties.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Roseville, sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday asking him to add the Caldor Fire to the request list for a major disaster declaration.

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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