Successful firing operation on Caldor thrills officials (Gallery)
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Fighting fire with fire sometimes goes bad.
But on Thursday, Mother Nature fully cooperated and officials feel like they may have taken a big step on further controlling the Caldor with a successful firing operation that “couldn’t have gone any better” near Caples Lake and California State Route 88, and within eyesight of the backside of Sierra-at-Tahoe.
While successful, the fire is still actively burning and officials said “we’re not out of the woods yet.”
“Our defensive line is much better now to use a football term,” said Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District Fire Marshal and Caldor Spokesman Eric Guevin. “The fire has a long way to go to get back at us. This will help us dramatically control this fire.”
As soon as Guevin said we’re not out of the woods, a large tree in the burn area was heard crashing to the ground. He said on a windier day that could have thrown embers into the sky that could create spot fires beyond fire lines, which is something he said has spurred this fire all along.
Firefighters were ready for a fight with bulldozers having cleared a wide, two-lane path on the Schneider Camp 4X4 Trail to break up dense vegetation as well as dozing other fire lines up hillsides to add an extra layer of defense if the winds shifted and the blaze tried to expand on the eastern edge.
Fire crews have been using hand tools to construct hand lines in the stubborn Convict Meadow, Lake Margaret, and Caples Drainage steep, rugged area where hot fire has burned through moss on rocks and weaved its way through a garden of granite to reach the dam at Caples Lake.
Since it reached the dam, the fire has been knocked back into the wilderness and away from Highway 88.
On Thursday, the southwest winds turned into a northerly flow which set up well for the burning operation.
“Conditions couldn’t have been more perfect,” said Seneca Smith, lead public information officer for the California Incident Management Team 12.
Crews started a low intensity ground fire to consume the fuels ahead of the main blaze and it worked.
There were smiles all around as the sun went down on what was called a successful operation.
“There’s adrenaline and excitement because this is what we do,” Guevin said. “Why this was so important is that the wind kept kicking up embers that kept going outside the lines. This was a real special, methodical plan. We had to make it black on our terms and it couldn’t have gone any better. It was a big success. Firing ops can sometimes go wrong and make the situation worse.”
While successful, Guevin said there is still active fire burning and Christmas Valley and Meyers residents still need to be aware and stay informed. Residents in Christmas Valley remain under an evacuation warning as well as Meyers residents on the western side of Highway 88.
The fire as of Thursday evening was at 221,161 acres and 76% contained. It has burned over 313-square-miles of ground but not all vegetation within the area burned during the initial fire leaving islands of unburned vegetation within the fire footprint and heavy fuels, such as tree stumps and downed logs, which continue to burn.
Guevin also reminds everybody to stay out of the forest areas where they are not allowed after seeing people unloading their mountain bikes atop Luther Pass. To learn what areas are closed, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7801/ and look for forest closures.
Guevin said, “people need to picture a big tape line around the restricted areas that says don’t go in there.”
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