Officials concerned with Caldor Fire moving closer to Lake Tahoe
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — If and when the Echo Summit area moves from an evacuation warning to an order due to spread of the Caldor Fire, portions of South Lake Tahoe will go under an evacuation warning, officials said Tuesday night.
That was in response to a question at a community meeting in Meyers hosted by Cal Fire. The meeting, held at the Lake Tahoe Environmental Magnet School, was not open to the public but was broadcast on the Cal Fire Amador-El Dorado Unit Facebook page. The meeting was also supposed to be on Zoom, but Cal Fire officials said at the start of the meeting that they were hacked and it was not available.
Officials from multiple agencies were represented and several Lake Tahoe leaders were on hand to receive a fire update. Chairs were spaced out in the school’s auditorium/gymnasium to provide for socially distanced seating and masks were required indoors.
El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Eric Palmberg responded to a question from the public about what would trigger an evacuation warning for South Lake Tahoe.
Palmberg said, “What will trigger warnings in South Lake Tahoe is if the Echo Summit area moves into a mandatory evacuation order.”
The fire, which has grown to 126,182 acres and is 11% contained as of Wednesday morning, is less than 20 miles away from the basin but has not forced South Tahoe residents to leave their homes. No evacuation orders or warnings have been issued. The Echo Summit area remains under a warning.
“You will be well informed when it is time to do so,” Palmberg told residents about evacuating.
He also touched on evacuation routes and said the only traffic on U.S. Highway 50 would be eastbound. Westbound US 50 remains closed from Meyers to Fresh Pond.
Those without vehicles should contact the Sheriff’s Office for assistance.
Lake Valley Fire Chief Brad Zlendick said he and his agency have been keeping a close eye on the fire, including traveling to the fire’s command post everyday.
“To say Lake Valley Fire is concerned is an understatement,” Zlendick said. “We’re concerned about the cabins on Echo Summit and the Meyers community.”
He said neighbors need to work together and help each other out as much as possible if or when the time comes.
Cal Fire Amador-El Dorado Unit Operations Chief Mike Blankenheim said there are two main firefighting priorities, on the west edge where the fire is burning in steep drainage and is threatening a “whole bunch of communities,” he said.
The other is the eastern edge nearest to Tahoe where he said growth had slowed but was still advancing.
He said the spot fire that broke out north of US 50 near Kyburz a few days ago grew to about 400-500 acres but that they have it surrounded and feel good about stopping it there.
Another possible hot spot broke out Tuesday near Packsaddle Road, according to scanner chatter. The fire map shows a hot spot but Cal Fire officials would not confirm that to the Tribune Tuesday night.
Blankenheim did say that if it was true, that would be their No. 1 priority.
He said they are constructing a massive dozer line on Packsaddle Road which was almost complete, saying there are just a few miles left until dozer operators finish.
He said if that line does not hold, there are a couple of other areas the agency has scouted where they will try to stop the blaze, but he didn’t specify exactly where.
Jeff Marsolais, Eldorado National Forest supervisor, who previously spent 10 years as the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Supervisor, talked about the fire getting additional resources because it’s the top priority fire in the country.
Cal Fire Incident Commander Jeff Vieck went more into detail about what it means being the top priority fire. He said it’s due to structures being threatened and dangerous fire growth. He said there are so many resources traveling in to help fight the fire that they had a traffic jam at base camp.
“It’s going to take 3,000 to 5,000 people to ultimately suppress this fire,” he said.
As of Wednesday morning there are 2,531 battling the fire, including 230 engines, 26 water tenders, 18 helicopters, 71 hand crews and 51 dozers.
Vieck said the Caldor Fire gets top priority with DC-10 bomber and helicopter flight missions.
Officials reiterated that they are working to protect the residents which is their top priority along with firefighter safety.
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