EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL/AP) — Fire crews continue to battle the fast-moving Caldor Fire in Eldorado National Forest, which grew more than 30,000 acres over the weekend.
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 Monday morning, the Caldor Fire was 106,562 acres — over 166 square miles — and 5% contained.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Highway 50 between Sly Park Road and Myers remains closed after gusts pushed the fire across the highway.
More than 24,500 residents in El Dorado and Amador counties have been ordered and warned to evacuate.
More than 17,400 structures remain threatened, Cal Fire reported. At least 403 homes, six commercial businesses and 148 minor structures have been destroyed by the fire. Twenty-six structures have been damaged.
Images show homes and cars near Forest View Drive and Grizzly Flats Road reduced to melted rubble and ash. Structure loss was also reported in Leoni Meadows.
Houses in Grizzly Flats were reduced to smoldering ash and twisted metal with only chimneys rising above the ruins. A post office and Walt Tyler Elementary School were also destroyed.
Officials are updating a map indicating the current known status of structures. Click here to view the map.
“We know this fire has done things that nobody could have predicted, but that’s how firefighting has been in the state this year,” El Dorado National Forest Supervisor Chief Jeff Marsolais said at a briefing Wednesday.
Cal Fire reported last week two civilians were severely injured in Grizzly Flats.
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. If seen, contact authorities at 530-642-4714.
Officials have announced an emergency closure of the Eldorado National Forest. 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.
Fire crews said the fire is burning in challenging terrain, making access difficult.
“There’s significant topography challenges out in these areas, with different canyons and drainage areas where the winds can shift causing issues for us,” Captain Keith Wade with the Sacramento Fire Department told FOX40. “So our firefighters need to remain safe out in this wildland arena.”
Over the weekend, officials told FOX40 air attacks have been the main course of action as crews try to keep the flames from residential areas.
Sunday, Cal Fire Air Operations dropped over 41,000 gallons of water and over 17,000 gallons of retardant over the fire.
“We are putting a lot of effort into trying to keep that fire from moving north into Grizzly Flat and affecting more of the residences there,” said Dana Walsh, an information officer for the Caldor Fire. “The Sly Park area — Pollock Pines — there is a lot of evacuated homes. We have a lot of structure protection going on in this portion of the fire.”
Monday morning, fire crews reported slow fire spread due to downslope winds, low temperatures and moderate humidity levels overnight.
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
- El Dorado Community Center at 6139 Pleasant Valley Road in El Dorado
- 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. They can also go to Saureel Vineyards at 1140 Cold Springs Road in Placerville. For assistance transporting large animals to the shelter, call 916-439-2268 or 530-306-3159.
From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., residents can also call the Caldor Fire information line at 530-303-2455.
Sunday, FOX40 spoke with two pastors who joined forces to bring comfort to their community after one of them lost his church and home to the Caldor Fire.
“On Tuesday, when we got full confirmation that the church had burned down,” Pastor Bill Brown told FOX40. “Somebody was driving in Grizzly and had a video camera and pointed it up towards our property, and we could see that our own personal home had burned down as well.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.