Official: Caldor Fire largely kept from towns

Wildfire Watch

The Latest – Tuesday, Sept. 7

5:25 p.m.

The Caldor Fire is 50% contained, according to Cal Fire.

5:05 p.m.

Cal Fire said evacuation orders west of Ice House Road, from the Placer County line, south to Highway 50 and east of Junction Reservoir have been downgraded to warnings.

A number of warnings in El Dorado County have also been lifted. More information on those can be found by clicking or tapping here.

Cal Fire 5 p.m. Update (Evacuations, Evacuation Centers, General Info)

1:40 p.m.

Cal Fire said Tuesday afternoon that homes along Pioneer Trail from Al Tahoe Boulevard to Elks Club, previously under an evacuation order, are now under an evacuation warning. Click or tap here for the full evacuation update.

Original story below:

Cal Fire 7 a.m. Update (Evacuations, Evacuation Centers, General Info)

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP/KTXL) — The state agencies that are battling multiple wildfires briefed Californians Tuesday morning warning them to stay vigilant and be ready to evacuate despite recent progress.

The warning comes as the Sacramento Valley region spent a second consecutive day in over 100-degree heat.

The huge wildfire near the Lake Tahoe resort region was about half contained Tuesday, with the head of California’s firefighting agency saying crews largely have been able to keep flames away from populated areas.

“We’ve been able to herd these fires around and outside of the main community corridors,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Chief Thom Porter said.

That includes the city of South Lake Tahoe and nearby Meyers that were threatened by the Caldor Fire as it churned east, and the communities of Pollock Pines and nearby Sly Park near where the fire ignited three and a half weeks ago.

216,646Acres Burned
24,647Structures Threatened
994 (776 Homes)Structures Destroyed
Sept. 7, 7 a.m. Cal Fire Numbers

“Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened in every case,” Porter said at a briefing. “But by and large, we’ve been able to do a great job in protecting lives, property.”

Nearly 1,000 structures have been destroyed in the fire near Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border, including 776 homes. Many were in the community of Grizzly Flats near where the fire started and was able to burn before officials could divert significant resources from other blazes scorching California.

Others include the Dixie Fire, the second-largest in the state’s recorded history, which also has burned through rural, forested communities that firefighters were unable to protect.

The perimeter of that fire, which is farther north in the Sierra Nevada, has grown to 800 miles (1,300 kilometers), said Tony Scardina, the U.S. Forest Service’s deputy regional forester for California.

That’s the equivalent of “driving the I-5 from the southern border of California to the northern border of California,” he said of the major north-south interstate.

The Dixie Fire was 59% contained. It began in mid-July and has destroyed more than 1,200 buildings, including 688 homes.

Hot, dry, windy conditions across Northern California this week could spread existing or new fires, Scardina warned.

The drier, windier conditions are forecasted into December, but they also raise concerns for enabling California’s current fires to grow over the next 48 to 72 hours, according to Scardina.

About 3,125 square miles (8,094 square kilometers) have burned so far this year, similar to the record 2020 fire season, Porter said.

The state is already sitting at about 2 million acres burned in the calendar year, which is about where California was this time last year.

“That’s sobering, that is the new reality. That’s what we’re looking at. For a 2-million-acre year, that puts us at right about the number of acres, in the midpoint number of acres, burned in 2020,” Porter said. “We could be in same boat. While we did have the long weekend, some have turned to looking forward as if this is now fall-summer season is over. We’re smack in the middle of wildfire peak season and so everybody needs to remain vigilant.” 

Porter urged Californians to call 911 if they see smoke and evacuate if the orders come down from local authorities.

While there is still a massive firefight underway, Porter listed off the names of several cities Tuesday morning as a sign of hope, such as Susanville, Hayfork, Westwood, Kirkwood, Pollock Pines and South Lake Tahoe.

California has experienced increasingly larger and deadlier wildfires in recent years as climate change has made the U.S. 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.

The entire state showing the potential for extreme fire danger in the next three months, Porter said.

“We’re right smack in the middle of wildfire peak season,” he said. “And so everybody needs to remain vigilant.”

The Caldor Fire grew by just a few hundred acres over 24 hours, to 216,646 (just over 338 square miles), and containment lines were holding well, officials said at a briefing.

“We had very little challenging of the line anyplace on the fire,” said Tim Ernst, a Cal Fire operations section chief.

Some sections of the perimeter were a concern, but on much of the blaze, the work turned to mopping up, pulling miles of fire hose out of the forest and knocking down dangerously weakened trees.

The fire, which has grown explosively at times, was tamed enough to allow authorities to lift mandatory evacuation orders for the 22,000 residents of South Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

But Ryan Okashima, the California Highway Patrol’s assistant commissioner, urged residents to be cautious both in heeding evacuation warnings and when returning home.

“Please be patient, take your time as you’re trying to get back to your homes,” he said. “Please don’t go to your homes until you’re actually told that is clear to go to your homes.”

The firefight was so intense that all eight available firefighting aircraft from the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve were called into service Sunday for the first time since 2012, said Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, who heads the California National Guard.

But with improving conditions, Baldwin said a couple hundred troops, four Guard helicopters and other equipment were pulled back.

The Caldor Fire broke out Aug. 14 on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada and gutted the community of Grizzly Flats as it roared up and over the crest of the mountain range to the eastern side, burning more homes and cabins along the way until it was prevented from reaching Lake Tahoe’s south shore.

The fire has been “one of the most impactful events that I think we’ve ever seen here,” said Mike Blankenheim, chief of the Amador-El Dorado unit of Cal Fire.

“The road back to some sense of normalcy for us is no doubt going to be long and no doubt going to have some challenges with it, but because of the efforts of this group here … that path has a solid anchor point and we have a direction to go with that right now,” Blankenheim told firefighters.

On Tuesday, more than 15,500 personnel were working on 14 active large wildfires in California.

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 [FULL]
  • 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
  • Truckee Veterans Hall at 10214 High Street in Truckee, CA, in Nevada County
  • 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.

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.

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