‘A lot of firefight left’ as crews also begin repairs

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat

Fire suppression repairs are under way on both the east and west zones of the Caldor Fire.

Interior smoke on the Caldor fire on September 9, 2021 in Division QQ. (Provided/ Kaleena Lynde/USFS)

Repair work is expected to continue into spring 2022, according to west zone Incident Commander Chief Charlie Blankenheim, who joined other officials Monday evening for the daily briefing.

“Understand we are here, we are doing a ton of work and we are going to continue to be here for you,” Blankenheim said.

Areas with impacts to private property will take priority, east zone operations section Chief Kyle Jacobson said. Repairs in the east zone will start at Christmas Valley, upper Truckee Road and High Meadows areas.

“We are allocating additional resources to try and take care of that repair,” Jacobson said. “We’re not turning our heads from the suppression. There is still a lot of firefight left and an increase in weather can increase fire activity.”

The repopulation of the rest of Grizzly Flat continued Monday, said Kevin Pack, California Highway Patrol west zone liaison. He added that changes are anticipated in the Happy Valley and Crystal Basin areas in the next couple days.

“I must advise everyone the forest still remains closed,” Pack said. “So anyone with private holdings in the forest, you’ll need to coordinate through the forest to get access to those places.”

Hot shot crews are working to control the fire north of Kirkwood, said Beale Monday, west zone operations section chief.

The area adjacent to Silver Lake continues to be difficult for fire crews.

“We’ve got multiple crews turning around dropping water (there),” Monday said. “The fuel type down there is just heavily loaded with that fir tree and spruce mix.”

Highway 50 has opened up all the way to Silver Fork, Monday also reported.

Jacobson said crews are mopping up in the Echo Lake area.

Backcountry firefighters were able to contain the fire west of Echo Lake and are implementing controlled fires to further contain that area pushing west.

“These are specialized (firefighter crews) catered to working in these wilderness areas, so they will be camping in the wilderness for approximately the next week,” Jacobson said.

Meyers continues to hold, reported Jacobson. Crews are now working to contain a strip of the fire in the Meyers area burning northeast in Trimmer Peak.

Fire crews are also mopping up near Scout Peak and hope to have that area contained soon.

“It’s slow going. It’s steep and rocky, a bit snaggy, but they are making good progress,” Jacobson said.

Crews continue to work in the Strawberry Creek and Caples Lake areas.

Sgt. Simon Brown with the El Dorado County Sheriffs Office shared at the meeting that some residents of the west side of Fallen Leaf Lake can start repopulating but half the residents will need permits from the U.S. Forest Service to enter the area.

Brown also called for a moment of silence for Galt officer Harminder Grewal, killed Aug. 27 in a car crash on Highway 99 while responding to the Caldor Fire.

“We all support him and his legacy by continuing to do the work that we are doing,” Brown said.

Grewal’s memorial service was Monday.

Jimmy Smith of Southwest Gas said they have relit more than 300 homes in Christmas Valley and have a couple hundred more to go. In areas outside of Christmas Valley, Southwest Gas has also brought services back to 150 homes.

President Joe Biden came to tour the Caldor Fire Monday, a day after he declared the historically destructive blaze a major disaster.

Monday night the Calfor Fire sat at 219,267 acres burned with 67% containment. More than 3,700 personnel are working the fire.

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