Caldor Fire winding down in Tahoe; Officials ask evacuees to be patient
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Lake Tahoe residents eager to return to their homes will have to be patient, officials said.
The Caldor Fire has burned 214,107 acres and is 37% contained. It expanded by less than 1,000 acres from Friday into Saturday as firefighters were able to fight it directly due to favorable weather.
Just three structures have been damaged in the basin, two commercial structures were judged to be 1-9% affected while a utility structure about 120-square feet was 10-25% damaged.
Although the fire continued to burn in the mountains above South Lake Tahoe on Friday, the city felt free of danger compared to when the uncontained blaze approached and black embers and ash fell from orange skies.
No flames were visible Friday from the highway in Christmas Valley or U.S. Highway 50 where personnel, it appeared, had mostly left the area.
Helicopters were dropping water on the flames on the blaze that had not crossed a dozer line about a mile away from Heavenly Mountain Resort.
Despite some continued spotting behavior in the northeastern head of the fire, crews were successful in holding the fire within its current footprint, said a Saturday morning report.
The power is on in many neighborhoods. It looks like the residents should be able to return sooner than later, but officials said there is still work to be done.
“We totally appreciate residents wanting to get back home, we probably want it almost as bad as they do,” said Caldor Fire Information Officer Parker Wilbourn. “We need utility companies to clear areas and we need to make sure roads are clear and safe.”
The re-population at the west end of the fire didn’t happen until the blaze was fully contained in that area, but communities there lost hundreds of homes where Tahoe appears to be spared. Officials are estimating Sept. 13 as the full containment date.
The fire was active on the south side of Echo Lake, where it is crept down to the lake’s edge.
Safety concerns for firefighters are potential rollout of smoldering material in the steeper hillsides along the northeastern edge, and hazardous burning snags on the north side of Caples Lake and Highway 88. Firefighters are also taking advantage of topographical features to help prevent progression of the fire in this area, while dozer operators continue their line construction to the east of Caples Lake, said the report.
Structure protection groups continue to work in the communities under evacuation near the fire’s edge, seeking out hot spots and mopping up around structures, especially within the communities on the north flank and Pioneer Trail.
US 50 remains closed and will not reopen until hundreds of trees are removed and the road is safe for travel.
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