Caldor Fire leaving scar on Tahoe landscape (Gallery)
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Looking down through the smoke from U.S. Highway 50, it’s astonishing the Caldor Fire did not consume any homes in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
The fire has scorched the landscape in the Christmas Valley and Meyers areas and the charred trees and decimated vegetation will be a reminder for years to come.
The fire is at 215,400 acres and is 43% contained as of Sunday morning and the fight remains active in the Luther Pass and Echo Lake areas.
On Saturday, about a dozen fire vehicles lined California State Route 89 just up the hill from Christmas Valley as crews trudged up the steep, rugged hillside.
Helicopters were supporting firefighting efforts on the ground with water drops as smoke allowed.
Officials on Sunday morning said they are near containment on the head of the fire that has been stopped short of Heavenly Mountain Resort and has not moved in a few days.
The blaze destroyed hundreds of homes, but Tahoe was like a big red cape and when the raging bull of a fire charged through, firefighters pulled that cape away and the mostly uncontained blaze was left to feast on vegetation and not on homes.
Officials are looking to let residents back in their homes in the coming days.
Mandatory evacuation orders on the Nevada side of the state line were lifted on Saturday, but some areas remained on a warning status. Douglas County authorities urged residents to stay alert, saying the fire still has the potential to threaten homes.
There are no changes to evacuation orders as of Sunday morning for more than 20,000 South Lake Tahoe residents.
When evacuation orders are lifted, Cal Fire has created a checklist to promote a safe return.
Officials said, “repopulation consists of complex coordination between, fire, law enforcement, public works, and utilities to ensure the safety of residents and fire responders alike. We thank you for your patience and we work to get you back home.”
For tips on returning home after wildfire visit: Ready for Wildfire and view returning home video.
Below is the Cal Fire morning report on the East Zone of the fire.
Observations: Strong inversions formed overnight with very poor humidity recoveries only reaching 20 to 30% along the mid-slopes and ridgelines and above 6,600 feet. Good recoveries occurred in the lower valleys. Ridge winds remained variable with downslope terrain driven winds over the rest of the fire area.
Sunday Forecast: Extremely dry air will remain over the fire area on Sunday with above average temperatures continuing through Monday as high pressure remains over the west. Humidity will drop into the low to mid-teens at all elevations again during the day with very poor recoveries on mid-slopes and ridges. Ridge winds will remain variable, keeping smoke over the fire. Surface winds remain terrain driven with upslope winds 4 to 8 mph during the afternoon and gusts up to 15 mph in canyons. A return of southwest winds is expected by Tuesday with ridge wind gusts up to 25 to 30 mph possible.
Firefighters will continue their aggressive direct firefighting tactics and mop up operations in all areas of the fire. Last night, fire behavior was minimal to moderate, and crews held the fire within containment lines.
Wildland firefighting modules will be hiking into the Desolation Wilderness to engage directly with the fire using minimal impact suppression techniques. On the south and southwestern sides of Echo Lake, the fire continues to back down the hillside. Overall, the northern flank of the fire is holding well as firefighters continue their diligent mop up work. To the north, masticators and dozers are working to complete contingency lines along roadways surrounding Fallen Leaf Lake. These contingency lines are backup plans,however, the direct firefighting taking place now is making great progress and holding well.
On the northeastern corner of the fire, direct containment lines are almost tied in below Trimmer Peak, with great progress on mop up. Moving down to Luther Spire, hot spots still exist. Firefighters will continue their direct attack and get assistance from aircraft whenever visibility improves.
There is still much work to be done tying in dozer lines and holding along the south and southeast flank of the fire above Caples Lake. However so far, firefighters are making good progress going direct. Safety concerns for firefighters remain with the potential for rollout of smoldering material and hazardous burning tree snags.
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — While many of Tahoe’s homes and buildings remained unscathed by the Caldor Fire, several of the basin’s most popular recreation areas did not fare so well.