Here’s the latest information on the fire, evacuations, damages and closures. Information is changing quickly, so please check with local first responders for the most up-to-date information.
By CapRadio Staff
Update: Sept. 8, 6:41 p.m.
Watch Cal Fire’s Sept. 8, 5 p.m. Community Meeting
Firefighters are asking for patience as they work to increase containment on the Caldor Fire to reopen Highway 50 and Highway 88, and allow the 10,000 people out of their homes to return.
“I understand there is blue sky outside right now and from a good chunk of El Dorado County you can’t see any smoke, and people are starting to get frustrated that the two highways aren’t open, that Tahoe’s not open,” Cal Fire incident commander Charlie Blankenheim said.
There were no changes to evacuation orders or warnings Wednesday. While the fire is at 50% containment, crews are still struggling to contain the fire near Wrights Lake on the north edge and around Kirkwood on the south edge.
Starting Thursday, meteorologists are forecasting dry thunderstorms for the area that could bring stronger winds and lightning. A fire weather watch is in effect Thursday evening through Friday.
“We understand it’s very difficult being out of your homes and we’re doing everything we can to get residents back in their homes as soon as possible,” said operations section chief Kyle Jacobson. “With those predicted winds, there still is potential for these communities to be impacted and we don’t want to pull the trigger too soon and put people back in their homes.”
Incident meteorologist Zach Tolby said the best chance for thunderstorms will be Friday from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. Blankenheim said that while things are going well on the Caldor Fire now, the new conditions are concerning.
“Several other fires in Northern California in the last day or two have gotten some wind, and some fires that were in fairly contained status have blown out and we had a lot of fire spread,” he said.
Update: Sept. 7, 7:08 p.m.
Watch Cal Fire’s Sept. 7, 5 p.m. Community Meeting
More than 40,000 people evacuated because of the Caldor Fire have been able to return to their homes in the past week as firefighters have increased containment, but officials said there is still a long way to go.
“Tonight we’re at 50% containment, which is a pretty big feat over the last three weeks,” Cal Fire incident commander Dusty Martin said. “However, that means we still have 50% of this fire left, so there still is a lot more work that needs to be done.”
On Sept. 1, more than 53,000 people were under evacuation orders, according to the state Office of Emergency Services. As of Tuesday morning that’s down to less than 10,000.
That includes not just the 22,000 residents of South Lake Tahoe, but thousands of residents in areas such as Camino and Pollock Pines on the west side of the fire. Grizzly Flat proper, which was hit especially hard by the fire, remains under evacuation orders as officials work to clear the area of debris and other hazards.
Highway 50 also remains closed. While officials extended access to Ice House Road over the weekend, there’s no estimate when it will fully reopen.
“The whole Highway 50 corridor, there’s no threat from fire right now, but we have a lot of weakened trees,” Beale Monday with the National Incident Management Team and Cal Fire said on Tuesday.
Crews continue to be challenged around Wrights Lake and the Desolation Wilderness, and along Highway 88 and Kirkwood.
Looking at the state as a whole, Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said Californians should resist the urge to think Labor Day marks the end of summer and the end of fire season.
“Some have turned to looking forward as if this is now fall … [the] summer season is over. We’re right smack in the middle of wildfire peak season,” Porter said.
Autumn has traditionally been a time of the most extreme wildfires in California, as vegetation is at its driest. The 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed much of the town of Paradise, began in November.
Cal Fire’s long range weather models for September through December don’t offer much cause for optimism.
“The entire state shows drier, more wind events and large fire activity to continue,” Porter said.
Porter says if you see smoke, don’t assume someone else has reported it, call it in. And if you’re ordered to evacuate, leave immediately.
Update: Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m.
Watch Cal Fire’s Sept. 6, 5 p.m. Community Meeting
A day after downgrading evacuation orders for the nearly 22,000 residents of South Lake Tahoe, fire officials continued to open up areas on the west side of the fire around Grizzly Flats, and expanded the open areas of Highway 50.
“Along the [Highway] 50 corridor, these unburned pockets are looking really good,” said Erich Schwab, a Cal Fire incident commander. “That allowed us to lift those evacuation orders almost all the way to Ice House.”
Most of Grizzly Flats, which was devastated by the initial push of the fire almost three weeks ago. is still under an evacuation order. Sgt. Erich Palmberg with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office said he’s hopeful there will be a system to give property owners passes to visit their homes soon, but that it’s still not safe to let people back in.
“We literally have thousands if not tens of thousands of trees that have burned and a lot of those are going to be needed to be cut down as hazards,” he said. “There’s a very large amount of debris up there. PG&E is making repairs.”
Crews have had forward progression on the fire southeast of Meyers and South Lake Tahoe stopped for a few days, according to Jake Cagle, operations section chief with the California Interagency Incident Management Team. He said spots in the Desolation Wilderness near Wrights Lake to the north and along Highway 88 near Kirkwood to the south continue to present challenges.
The incredibly tough terrain of the Desolation Wilderness has made it difficult to fight. Schwab said crews need to hike two hours in to the head of the fire, so they’re looking at dropping in crews by air who will camp in the wilderness and get supplies dropped in to them. Cagle said Cal Fire is also using a “super scooper” aircraft to do water drops using Lake Tahoe as the source.
As the day started, officials told crews to stay focused as they work to increase containment on the fire.
“We’ve got this thing, we’re wrapping our arms around it, we’re trying to take it down, but don’t get complacent on it,” Stephen Vollmer, a Cal Fire fire behavior analyst, said at a Monday morning briefing.
The fire is 48% contained as of Monday evening, including most of the west side of the fire and parts of Christmas Valley in the Lake Tahoe Basin. In addition to South Lake Tahoe, officials have reduced evacuation orders to warnings for many communities around Camino and Pollock Pines over the past few days.
Still, Cal Fire meteorologist Jim Dudley said humidity will be very low around the fire Monday, with a slight uptick in winds, though nothing like what drove the explosive growth of the fire weeks ago.
“We are drier than I have seen on my 20 days on this fire … and we’re going to get a little more wind on it,” he said.
Cal Fire’s Tim Ernst said while firefighters have made a lot of progress, the area around Kirkwood along Highway 88 continues to give crews problems.
“It continues to show us we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.
Update: Sept. 5, 7:11 p.m.
Watch Cal Fire’s Sept. 5, 5 p.m. Community Meeting
Residents of the city of South Lake Tahoe can begin returning home after mandatory evacuation orders were lifted in the city limits, as well as around the Lake Tahoe shore in El Dorado County Sunday.
The areas of Fallen Leaf Lake, Christmas Valley, Meyers and North Upper Truckee remain under an evacuation order.
South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue Chief Clive Savacool said residents were slowly trickling back after the order was reduced around 3 p.m.
“So far it hasn’t been a mad rush of cars, we’re happy to see that people are slowly trickling in just because the city does need time to get ready to have you back,” he said.
Still, Savacool cautioned residents that services could be reduced as they return home, and that air quality in the region remains poor. Barton Hospital has not yet reopened its emergency room, though he said local law enforcement with paramedic training are in the area.
“If you have any health problems, it might not be the best time for you to come back up,” he said. “If you are in a place where you’re safe, with good air quality, stay where you’re at. When you do come back, make sure you have your medications, enough groceries, and a full tank of gas.”
TIPS FOR RETURNING HOME:
Ensure you have a full tank of fuel in your vehicle.
Get groceries before you return.
Many businesses may still be closed and/or without their products. No deliveries have been allowed in so please be patient and prepared. https://t.co/cjLtUgOHOW
— CHP South Lake Tahoe (@CHPSouthLake) September 5, 2021
The move is a sign of the progress firefighters have made since winds eased around the fire on Thursday. That morning the fire was 25% contained, but as of Sunday evening that had jumped to 44%. The fire has now burned more than 214,000 acres and destroyed more than 700 homes.
Jake Cagle, operations section chief with the California Interagency Incident Management Team, said containment expanded around Christmas Valley and Meyers, taking away threats to South Lake Tahoe and Nevada. He credited local fuel reduction measures with assisting firefighters’ efforts to save homes in the region.
“There’s some fuel treatment areas through here … that have all been prepped in the past by the locals in there,” Cagle said. “That is a really good stroke in there, there’s a lot of reduction in fuels in there.”
Cal Fire’s Tim Ernst described Saturday as a “very productive day,” but with an uptick in dryness that triggered some hot spots throughout the fire zone.
The Wright’s Lake area remains a top priority, where the fire continues to push against the line. “No dramatic runs, just a lot of hard work there,” Ernst said, adding that they’re pumping additional water into the area, but that access is a challenge.
On the southeastern edge, there is no fire in Kirkwood’s bowl, but it continues to be a battle for firefighters, as well. Cal Fire Division Chief Erich Schwab said no structures have been impacted around Silver Lake.
The weather will remain favorable to fire-fighting, but there could be some winds that encourage fire growth.
Update: Sept. 4, 7:27 p.m.
Fire crews continued to take advantage of better weather around the Caldor Fire to reduce evacuation orders and increase containment on the wildfire that started near Omo Ranch exactly three weeks ago.
Orders were reduced both on the west side around Pollock Pines in El Dorado County and on the east side in Douglas County, Nevada, where all residents are being allowed back, though some areas remain under warning.
“It’s just an amazing job from where this fire first started to where we are today,” said Rocky Opliger, incident commander with California Interagency Incident Management Team 4. “We have been very fortunate the last couple of days with some mitigating weather to allow our firefighters to really take an aggressive approach.”
As of Saturday evening, the fire was 43% contained, up from 32% only 24 hours ago. At least 920 structures have been destroyed, including 712 homes, and more than 214,000 acres have burned.
Some hot spots remained, specifically to the north around Wrights Lake and the Desolation Wilderness, and to the south along Highway 88 near Kirkwood. Still, firefighters said no homes or buildings have been destroyed in those areas, and they remain optimistic in containing the threats there.
“No fire has impacted Kirkwood itself, it has not come in the bowl, and the fire down here around Silver Lake has not impacted any of the structures,” Cal Fire Division Chief Erich Schwab said.
Schwab said there are still pockets of heat along Highway 50, as well, but he’s hopeful that those could be contained in the next day or two.
“If they can get those knocked out, they can start releasing evacuations all the way to Ice House Reservoir,” he said.
Officials cautioned people returning to their homes to watch for damaged trees or other hazards, and to be aware there will still be a large number of firefighters and other equipment.
“So don’t be surprised if you see a large force of fire folks within that area,” said Cal Fire law enforcement liaison John Davis. “They’re there to continue mop up and patrol and to generally assist folks. If you have concerns out there, hit them up and they will address those concerns and answer questions.”
There isn’t a timeline to bring people home in the South Lake Tahoe area, though fire crews said they were happy with progress in protecting structures in the region.
Officials with both South Lake Tahoe and Douglas County said returning residents need to be aware not just of potential effects of fire, but an increase in bear activity around homes.
“You’re going to notice a significant increase in bear activity,” Douglas County Sheriff Daniel Coverley said. “As you’re away from your home, the activity around your home has decreased and the bears have become more comfortable.”
Both agencies asked you to call local law enforcement’s non-emergency lines or animal control if you see or suspect a bear is in or near your home.
Update: Sept. 4, 8:55 a.m.
The Caldor fire remained calm overnight on Friday as temperates stayed cool. Firefighters are now focusing on holding containment lines, in particularly at hot spots on the northeast and southern edges of the blaze.
The south side of Echo Lake is the most active area of the fire, where it is moving back toward the lake’s edge.
CalFire’s Tim Ernst said “yesterday was a monumental day” because hundreds of homes were secured and residents were able to return.
Firefighters are focusing on areas at Caldor’s northern edge, where the blaze continues to try to push into Desolation Wilderness, according to Ernst.
Weather will remain favorable for firefighters on Saturday and possibly through Labor Day weekend.
Update: Sept. 3, 6:35 p.m.
More El Dorado County residents will be able to return to their homes soon as a number of evacuations were lifted on the west side of the Caldor Fire Friday, with firefighters increasing containment under improved weather conditions.
The entire west end of the fire is now contained, according to maps shared during a Friday afternoon briefing. That allowed officials to reduce evacuation orders to warnings in some parts of Sly Park, Pollock Pines and Grizzly Flats. The areas now open are:
- South Sly Park: South of Starkes Grade Road, north of Sly Park Creek, east of Pleasant Valley Road up to and including the Diamond Garnet subdivision.
- Grizzly Flats West: East of Highway E16, west of Steely Ridge Road, South of the North Fork of the Cosumnes River and North of the Middle Fork of the Cosumnes River.
- Happy Valley: All properties accessed from Happy Valley Road.
- The area described as South of Pleasant Valley between Bucks Bar Road and Newtown Road, East of Bucks Bar Road to Mt. Aukum Road. This includes the area of Gopher Hole Road and Moonshadow.
- The area described as South of US Highway 50, North of Starkes Grade Road, East of Snows Road and West of Fresh Pond.
As of Friday evening, the fire was 32% contained and had burned 213,270 acres.
Incident Commander Dusty Martin said the lifting of evacuation orders was a sign of the progress firefighters made near where the fire started nearly three weeks ago.
“That also shows a bit of the turn in the incident for us on the west zone,” Martin said. “That’s getting us back to that repopulation.”
Officials said firefighters will remain in the newly opened areas, and residents returning to their homes should watch out for equipment as they come back.
“Our folks are going to be in and out of your driveways,” said Beale Monday with the National Incident Management Team and Cal Fire.
Eric Palmberg with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office said that some areas are slowly being repopulated to ease the strain on water and other resources. He also said it may take longer to reopen the whole of Grizzly Flats, where many homes were destroyed, to clear debris from the area.
There are some active areas throughout the fire perimeter on the east, north and south edges of the fire, though firefighters were optimistic Friday evening. Jake Cagle, operations section chief with the California Interagency Incident Management Team, said firefighters were having success keeping the fire away from homes in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
“Everything through Christmas Valley in the interior looks really good,” Cagle said. “We’re going to continue to have a presence in that area, we want to get that wrapped up so we can work on doing repopulation down the road for you.”
Update: Sept. 3, 8:30 a.m.
The Caldor fire calmed again over Thursday night, with firefighters able to develop more control and limit its growth.
Tim Ernst with Cal Fire used the words “cautiously optimistic” to describe Thursday’s fire activity, where he says there were “no significant fire runs.”
The Wrights Lake area was firefighters “biggest priority,” Ernst said, and there remains lots of work in that region to protect homes and structures. The fire is still spotting in some areas.
Near South Lake Tahoe, Ernst says firefighters did a lot of good work controlling the fire near Heavenly valley.
Firefighters increased containment to 29%. The fire has burned 212,907 acres.
The weather forecast is for continued light winds, due to cooler weather and an inversion layer.
Update: Sept. 2, 7:04 p.m.
Lighter winds gave firefighters an opportunity to make progress on the Caldor Fire Thursday, after three days of intense fire weather.
“With the decrease in winds, we’re seeing a lot of decrease in fire activity, which is great for the resources on the ground so we can get in there and mop up all those hot spots,” said Stephen Vollmer, a Cal Fire fire behavior analyst.
Cal Fire meteorologist Jim Dudley said the lighter winds could stick around through the weekend.
As of Thursday night, the fire is 27% contained and has burned 210,893 acres.
On the west end of the fire, Cal Fire Division Chief Erich Schwab said that the last active area south of Pollock Pines (near where the fire started) could soon be contained, which could speed up allowing residents to return. Some evacuations were lifted Thursday in the Omo Ranch area.
“If we don’t get any heat signatures next to the line, this line will turn black, we’ll pull hose lays out of that and look at repopulation in the next day or two,” he said.
Nearly 48,000 people reman evacuated in El Dorado, Amador and Alpine counties, as well as residents in Douglas County, Nevada.
Jake Cagle, an operations section chief with the California Interagency Incident Management Team, said that crews were able to protect homes and businesses in the Christmas Valley in the Lake Tahoe Basin, though the fire remained active at the head of the fire northeast of Meyers.
“Things are looking really good in Christmas Valley,” Cagle said. “There were some reports of spots, but there were no spots the crews could find. We’re being extremely aggressive through that because that’s a priority for us, the structures in there.”
Despite the favorable conditions, the Caldor Fire remained active in multiple areas. Crews were still struggling to contain where the fire jumped Highway 88 near Kirkwood, and the fire is also starting to burn into the Desolation Wilderness.
Schwab said crews would try and force it into the hard granite areas in the wilderness, but the extremely dry conditions were making that difficult, on both the north and south sides of the fire.
“If there is one stick out there in the rocks, it will burn right now,” he said.
Update: Sept. 2, 7:13 a.m.
A red flag warning in place since Monday finally expired overnight and crews are hoping improved conditions will help as they battle to protect homes and buildings on multiple fronts of the Caldor Fire.
Winds are expected to stay calmer Thursday, but humidity will stay low, fueling dry conditions that will make it easy for spot fires to spread and for islands of dry vegetation to spark and burn.
“With those dry conditions we’re seeing today, we’re going to start seeing those spot fires pop up that got thrown out during the last two days’ wind event,” said Stephen Vollmer, a Cal Fire fire behavior analyst. “The conditions are still dry, the temperatures are still high.”
As of Thursday morning, the fire was 25% contained and had burned 210,259 acres. More than 600 homes have been destroyed, and damage assessment is ongoing.
The fire continued to push north of Highway 50 toward Wrights Lake, and Cal Fire Operations Section Chief Tim Ernst said crews were working to protect homes in the area.
“We are seeing a lot of structure protection need there,” Ernst said during a Thursday morning briefing. “We have a great structure defense plan going on. There are about 100 additional homes in there that are being protected.”
Ernst said the fire was holding around Sly Park Road, south of where Cal Fire was able to reduce evacuation orders for some parts of North Camino and Pollock Pines Wednesday.
In the Tahoe area, the fire remained active around Trimmer Peak and in the Christmas Valley near Pioneer Trail, where Cal Fire has multiple crews attempting to protect homes. More than 53,000 people remain evacuated throughout El Dorado County.
Firefighters are also concerned about the fire spreading near Kirkwood where the fire jumped Highway 88.
Thursday morning President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in California. His administration has ordered Federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts due to the Caldor Fire.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the containment percentage for the Caldor Fire. Oas of Thursday morning it is 25% contained.
Update: Sept. 1, 6:23 p.m.
After weeks of being evacuated, some El Dorado County residents are on the verge of heading back home as firefighters continue to get control on the Caldor Fire and spots on the far west side of the fire are mopped up.
Cal Fire officials on Wednesday downgraded the mandatory evacuation orders in parts of North Camino and Pollock Pines. Those areas are north of Highway 50, west of Sly Park, south of Slab Creek, and east of Larsen Drive and Snows Road.
“One of the things that we have to make sure we do before we [repopulate] is to get all of our equipment out of your driveways, out of the streets, off the fire hydrants,” said Beale Monday, with the National Incident Management Team and Cal Fire. “We have fire hose spread out for miles out there.
“So please know we’re diligently working in those areas to make sure we get that equipment out of there,” Monday said. “So when we do go to repopulate, we don’t have traffic jams with our folks and you all as you do start to come back into the neighborhoods.”
The fire has forced evacuations for more than 50,000 people in El Dorado County up to the Placer County line, including all of South Lake Tahoe, some areas of Alpine County and parts of Douglas County in Nevada. (For a full list of evacuated areas, click here.)
CapRadio’s Scott Rodd spoke with Bill Crow, an evacuee, who at one point was waiting for someone to jump his car’s battery before he could get out of the area and head to Carson City, Nevada.
“There’s nowhere else to go. Your choices are very limited, you know,” Crow said.
While some areas are able to repopulate, firefighters still have a battle ahead of them. A red flag warning remains in effect until 11 p.m. Wednesday, and strong winds continue to challenge crews as they try to minimize damage to property — which they’ve managed to do in many parts of the burn area.
Despite the Caldor Fire dropping into the Lake Tahoe Basin, many homes and cabins around Echo Lake are undamaged, according to reporters in the area Wednesday afternoon.
The fire came over the ridge at Echo Summit Monday night, but so far fire officials have said there is little to no damage to structures so far.
The last you saw of Christmas Valley on my timeline was probably Mon night with the fire raging.
Took this yesterday along Santa Claus Dr. I didn’t see any damaged homes in the valley. Shows the hard work of firefighters+favorable shift in weather over last few days #CaldorFire pic.twitter.com/be1BJwD53V
— Scott Rodd (@SRodd_CPR) September 1, 2021
So much around it burned over, but the Echo Summit Lodge remains intact pic.twitter.com/TPpeTTnFCL
— Scott Rodd (@SRodd_CPR) September 1, 2021
Fire officials said Tuesday that they weren’t able to control the fire but have worked to direct it away from buildings. That was especially the case this week, as fire crews prevented structure loss in Christmas Valley, as the fire continues to move off into the east.
As of now, the far east side of the fire represents the biggest battle, with many resources being used to slow spread. The fire is starting back up and pushing toward Wrights Lake. Officials said Wednesday that the big fear is potential for easterly winds, pushing the fire back west again.
There is some help coming, though, according to Cal Fire meteorologist Jim Dudley.
“The good news is we don’t have the winds aloft coming in … to create those rather erratic and strong, gusty winds up on the top side of the fire,” Dudley said. “We’re still going to have dry conditions, humidity is going to be low, but we’re not going to have the wind.”
Dudley added that the gusty winds and extreme weather patterns that have caused most of the trouble in the past few days are expected to subside tonight, and be much lighter Thursday and Friday.
Update: Sept. 1, 5 p.m.:
Watch Cal Fire’s 5 p.m. Sept. 1 community meeting on the Caldor Fire.
Update: Sept. 1, 7:43 a.m.
Winds around the Caldor Fire slowed more than expected Tuesday night and into Wednesday, but red flag conditions will remain as firefighters work to try and impede the fire’s growth throughout its footprint.
“We lucked out a little bit yesterday with some of the winds that didn’t come up quite as hard as we expected them to, although we did have some ridge winds around 25 to 30 mph,” Cal Fire Operations Section Chief Tim Ernst said during Wednesday morning’s briefing. “For the most part we had a nice inversion come in around midnight, one in the morning, that put a real damper on things and slowed a lot of growth, so a lot of opportunity to make some progress last night.”
Ernst said the fire didn’t make as strong a push into the Lake Tahoe Basin last night as it did on Monday, when it crested Echo Summit. Firefighters are working to protect homes and buildings in the area, and Ernst said the community “is looking really good right now.”
More than 50,000 people remain evacuated throughout the region, including into Nevada. As of Wednesday morning, the fire is 20% contained and has burned 204,390 acres. Cal Fire increased their count of homes destroyed by the fire to 544 overnight. A damage assessment map is available here.
The fire is continuing to push north of Highway 50 towards Wrights Lake, and to the southeast is hung up on the ridge near Kirkwood across Highway 88. On Tuesday, fire officials said they could decide to push the Caldor Fire into the burn area of the Tamarack Fire if it keeps moving that direction.
A red flag warning for dry, windy conditions remains in effect until 11 p.m. today. Cal fire meteorologist Jim Dudley said while winds may be a little weaker than on Tuesday, the air is “extremely dry” and winds will still be challenging for firefighters.
“The speeds may be a little less than yesterday, but don’t want to dismiss the fact that we still have the swirly, gusty winds that are going to be causing the issues on the fire,” Dudley said.
Update: Aug. 31, 7:17 p.m.:
Watch Cal Fire’s 5 p.m. Aug. 31 community meeting on the Caldor Fire.
Firefighters did what they could to slow the Caldor Fire across its footprint from the Pollock Pines area to the Lake Tahoe Basin Tuesday as strongs winds continued to fuel the flames.
The fire crested Echo Summit last night into the Christmas Valley, but so far few structures have been damaged. Cal Fire Division Chief Erich Schwab said crews did their best to protect homes as red flag conditions made it difficult to contain.
“We can’t control it,” Schwab said. “We don’t have any tools out there to stop the fire so we result to herding the fire away from structures and away from people.”
As of Tuesday evening, the fire was 18% contained and had burned 199,632 acres. Nearly 500 homes have been destroyed, and 34,834 structures remained threatened.
The fire was also active near Kirkwood where it jumped Highway 88. Evacuation orders were expanded Tuesday afternoon in Alpine County in the area. The fire was also spotting north of Highway 50 near Wright’s Lake.
Stephen Vollmer, a Cal Fire fire behavior analyst, said the fire was burning so hot and so fast it was making crown runs, which is when it spreads across the tops of trees. He said embers were being cast up to a mile out in front of the fire.
“Those embers are landing in the very old, very dense fuels that are out there in the fire environment,” he said. “The area in the fire has not seen fire history all the way back before 1940.”
The red flag warning for the fire is in place until 11 p.m. Wednesday when Cal Fire meteorologist Jim Dudley said conditions will improve somewhat.
“I think today is the worst of the weather days,” Dudley said on Tuesday. “Tomorrow is going to be another bad weather day, I’ll be honest with you, but it will be the last one of those. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Much of the southwest and northwest sides of the fire are now contained, with active fire still near Sly Park, though fire officials are optimistic about operations in the area. Despite that, there is no timeline on further repopulation after some orders were lifted in Pipip near Omo Ranch on Monday.
“Everybody is making every effort to get you back in your homes,” said Sergeant Eric Palmberg with the El Dorado county Sheriff’s Office. “When these people determine it is safe to get back into our homes, we will put that information out and we will get you back in there as soon as we can.”
Updated Aug. 31: 4:21 p.m.
Mandatory evacuations for the Caldor Fire have crossed into Nevada, with Douglas County issuing orders Tuesday afternoon.
The orders cover parts of Kingsbury, a community of around 2,000 people on the California-Nevada border. The affected areas are:
- Upper Kingsbury (South)
- Upper Kingsbury (North)
- Central Kingsbury
- Lower Kingsbury
- Round Hill region and roads including Lower Elks Point
- Lake Village
- Lower Olivers, Kahle Drive region and roads
Thousands of tourists and residents who evacuated South Lake Tahoe due to the Caldor Fire are looking for refuge in Nevada even as the state begins to evacuate its own residents. Emergency officials have opened four evacuation centers in Gardnerville, Carson City and Reno.
The roughly 22,000 people living along the South Shore were forced to evacuate Monday as weather conditions pushed the Caldor Fire into the Tahoe Basin.
Kathy Quick of Pollock Pines was among those seeking refuge in Douglas County. This is the second time she’s had to flee from the Caldor Fire.
“I was just crying the whole way here, going down Kings[bury] Grade,” she said. “It’s just too much. It’s too hard.”
Update: Aug. 31, 10:18 a.m.
Fire crews battled to protect structures in the Christmas Valley overnight into Tuesday as the Caldor Fire came down Echo Summit into the Lake Tahoe Basin.
No homes have been destroyed in Christmas Valley as of Tuesday morning, according to Capt. Keith Wade with Sacramento City Fire Department, who is working with Cal Fire on the incident.
Another cautiously optimistic update on the west side of Christmas Valley.
Crews here say that the fire is relatively low intensity, Fire may back up to homes but there’s confidence they can keep the flame back with hoses and hand tools.
— Scott Rodd (@SRodd_CPR) August 31, 2021
Still, Wade said the area is still under a red flag warning until 11 p.m. Wednesday and the fire was spotting from a half-mile to a mile on Monday. He said the strong winds paired with historically dry conditions will continue to push the fire.
“As I was traveling along [Highway] 50, I passed Highway 89 and saw those spot fires, and it reminded me this incident is not like others,” Wade said.
The Caldor Fire is now the second wildfire in California history to cross the Sierra Nevada. The first was the Dixie Fire, which is still burning in the North State.
Wade said the fire remains active on the west and south sides of its perimeter, including jumping State Route 88 near Kirkwood.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak declared a state of emergency Monday to ensure that resources go to help Caldor Fire evacuees from California taking refuge in the state. More than 53,000 people in El Dorado County have been evacuated, including the nearly 22,000 residents of South Lake Tahoe.
The influx of people is expected to result in unsafe road conditions, overwhelmed services and insufficient evacuee sheltering. The evacuation center at Douglas County Community and Senior Center is already at full capacity.
Sisolak’s state of emergency directs state, local and federal agencies to provide resources as needed.
Original Story: Aug. 31, 8:13 a.m.
Watch Cal Fire’s 5 p.m. Aug. 30 community meeting on the Caldor Fire.
More than 53,000 people are under evacuation orders in El Dorado County as of Monday, including the nearly 22,000 residents of South Lake Tahoe, with reports of the fire moving in the Tahoe Basin Monday evening.
Fire coming down west side of Christmas Valley from Hwy 50.
— Scott Rodd (@SRodd_CPR) August 31, 2021
People forced to flee South Lake Tahoe because of the fast-moving Caldor Fire were stuck in gridlock traffic on Highway 50, just hours after state fire officials announced mandatory evacuation orders on Monday morning.
During a Monday afternoon briefing, Cal Fire Director Thom Porter said officials in Nevada and California have been “coordinating plans to evacuate South Lake Tahoe” since last week.
“There is a method to the triggers that are being pulled and the timing for each of those,” Porter said.
Watch the California Office of Emergency Services 1 p.m. Aug. 30 update on the Caldor Fire and other state emergencies.
California Office of Emergency Services director Mark Ghilarducci said part of that planning meant using resources to knock on doors as well as evacuate both the Barton Memorial Hospital and the El Dorado County Jail in South Lake Tahoe.
“And it included making sure that individuals who had any access and functional needs issues had all of the transportation and all those assets that were required to be able to get them out in a timely and organized fashion,” Ghilarducci said.
Over the last 24 hours, fire officials placed a few areas of South Lake Tahoe under evacuation orders at a time, leaving others under evacuation warning. But that changed quickly, as did the conditions that have led to the rapid spread of the Caldor Fire.
Officials said Monday that the wildfire had moved into the Christmas Valley in the Tahoe Basin, though it was not impacting structures. It also crossed State Route 88 to the south and was burning on Thunder Mountain near Kirkwood.
New: #CaldorFire has crossed Hwy 50 near Echo summit where crews were attempting to make a stand and hold it back from making another hard run.
Fire is headed down mountainside now toward Hwy 89 and Meyers. pic.twitter.com/FHJbGykJ3L
— Scott Rodd (@SRodd_CPR) August 31, 2021
Now, all of South Lake Tahoe and much of the Lake Tahoe Basin are under mandatory evacuation orders as firefighters struggle to keep the fire from spreading further east ahead of expected wind increase in the area.
The new evacuation orders include all of South Lake Tahoe, Meyers, Desolation Wilderness and Christmas Valley in El Dorado County. Silver Lake and Kirkwood in Alpine and Amador counties, including the Kirkwood Mountain Resort, are also under mandatory orders.
Evacuation warnings were also added for parts of Douglas County, Nevada, late Monday.
“The critical thing for you, the public, to know is evacuate early,” Porter said. “Warning doesn’t mean you have to stick around and wait for the order. You can go during a warning. You can go if you’re sucking smoke and you have respiratory or other underlying issues and you’re in the smoke for days, you’re not going to be out of the smoke for many more days.”
He added: “So find a way out, go to clear air, look out for your own health and safety, allow for firefighters to do what they need to do without having to rescue you.”
The mass evacuations have left people in standstill traffic on Highway 50, which is the main exit route for most people in South Lake Tahoe and the Lake Tahoe Basin. Photos on social media show evacuees standing outside of their cars staring at the long lines of two-lane traffic backed up for miles.
— Justin Sullivan (@sullyfoto) August 30, 2021
Meanwhile, fire crews are battling the Caldor Fire as well as the clock. The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for gusty southwest winds and extremely dry conditions starting Monday morning until 11 p.m. Wednesday.
The fire grew more than 20,000 acres on Sunday, the most growth that it’s seen in over a week.
Tony Scardina, Deputy Regional Forester with the United States Forest Service, said the fire made two unprecedented runs yesterday — “one made a seven mile run to the northeast of Highway 50 and another place made an eight and a half mile run.”
“Expect to see growth on these fires. And we are preparing for that as best we can,” Scardina said.
As of Wednesday night, the fire was 23% contained, and had burned 207,931 acres. 32,387 structures are listed as threatened, and 664 have already been destroyed, including 486 homes.
Though the fire remains the top firefighting priority in the U.S., officials cautioned that resources are stretched thin due to other fires burning across the state, as well as Hurricane Ida ripping through the south.
As of now, crews from Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia — as well as those from local fire departments across the state — are working to gain control over the Caldor Fire.
Some evacuation orders were downgraded to warnings Monday on the southwest side of the fire in El Dorado County where firefighters have gained some containment, with some warnings lifted in Amador County.
Cal Fire law enforcement liaison Eric Lee said there would be no changes to evacuation orders for areas along Highway 50 such as Pollock Pines or Camino until after the current Red Flag warning expired on Wednesday.
“Just out of the abundance of caution we’re leaving everything like it is right now until after this wind event is over, then we’ll assess it and take a look at it and see in the next couple of days if we can make that a warning area,” Lee said.
Highway 50 remains closed between Sly Park Road and the highways 50/89 roundabout in Meyers after it was shut down Friday. There is no estimate when the road will reopen. State Route 88 is now closed from Peddler Hill in Amador County to Route 89 West at Picketts Junction in Alpine County.
At least 664 structures have been destroyed, including 482 single homes, 11 commercial properties and 171 other minor structures, though damage assessment isn’t complete. Around 33,679 structures are threatened by the fire. While damage assessment is still ongoing, officials have released a preliminary structure damage map. The data shown on the map is subject to change as information is verified and gathered.
The Caldor Fire grew explosively shortly after starting the evening of Aug. 14 south of Pollock Pines. The town of Grizzly Flats has been devastated and at least two residents and three first responders have been injured.
217,569 acres and 50% contained as of 7 a.m. Sept. 8.
Cal Fire updates acreage and containment numbers around 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day.
“We know this fire has done things that nobody could have predicted. But that’s how firefighting has been in the state this year,” said Eldorado National Forest supervisor Jeff Marsolais Aug. 17 evening. “I’ve spent the past four weeks in the North State and every time a fire broke out it outpaced our models two to one. We’re seeing the same again here.”
You can also follow these social media accounts:
You can call the Cal Fire public information line for the Caldor Fire at (530) 303-2455.
The Cal Fire Amador-El Dorado Unit is hosting community meetings via Facebook live at 5 p.m. each night for residents affected by the Caldor Fire. You can join here.
At least 996 structures have been destroyed, including 776 homes, 18 commercial properties and 202 other minor structures, though damage assessment is not complete. More than 24,647 structures are threatened as of 7 a.m. Sept. 8.
While damage assessment is still ongoing, officials have released a preliminary structure damage map. The data shown on the map is subject to change as information is verified and gathered.
CapRadio and other reporters on the scene confirmed that the Grizzly Flats area has been devastated by the fire, with additional damage in the Somerset and Omo Ranch areas. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in El Dorado County.
According to Cal Fire, two people were injured near Grizzly Flats in separate incidents and transported by air ambulance to local hospitals. One person had serious injuries. Seven first responders have been injured.
Highway 50 is closed between Ice House Road Road and Meyers. The highway has been at least partially closed since Aug. 20. Officials do not have a timefram on fully reopening the highway.
Check Caltrans’ QuickMap for the most updated information on road closures.
EL DORADO COUNTY – ROAD CLOSURES: • Highway 50 is closed in both directions from Ice House Road to the California/Nevada Stateline. • Highway 89 at the Placer County/ El Dorado County line in Tahoma.
AMADOR – ROAD CLOSURES • Highway 88 is closed between Peddlers Ridge and the Highway 88/89 interchange.
The Eldorado National Forest announced a forest-wide closure starting Wednesday morning to last until Sep. 30.
The El Dorado County Office of Education is updating a list of school closures here.
Under the guidance and direction of the Incident Command of the Caldor fire and in order to protect the safety of students, staff and families, the following schools will be closed through Friday, September 10:
- Indian Diggings School District – all sites
- Lake Tahoe Unified School District – all sites
- Pollock Pines Elementary School District – all sites
- Silver Fork School District – all sites
The following schools are closed and monitoring the situation:
- Camino Union School District – all sites
Customers served by the post offices below are being directed to pick up their mail at Diamond Springs Post Office:
- Grizzly Flats Post Office, 4991 Sciaroni Road, Grizzly Flats, CA 95636
- Pollock Pines Post Office, 2669 Sanders Drive, Pollock Pines, CA 95726
- Kyburz Post Office, 13672 Highway 50, Kyburz, CA 95720
- Twin Bridges Post Office, 17481 Highway 50, Twin Bridges, CA 95735
Diamond Springs Post Office: 4949 Pleasant Valley Road, Diamond Springs, CA 95619
Hours: Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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