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Caldor Fire 100% contained, nearly two months after South Lake Tahoe evacuations

·3 min read

The Caldor Fire, which destroyed hundreds of homes in rural El Dorado County and displaced tens of thousands of residents in and near South Lake Tahoe in early September, is now 100% contained.

The blaze grew to 221,835 acres (347 square miles) before the U.S. Forest Service announced full containment Thursday.

Containment does not mean the fire is extinguished, only that crews have constructed a full perimeter of containment lines around the fire. More than 500 firefighters remain assigned to the Caldor Fire, continuing mop-up and repair efforts to ensure those containment lines hold.

“For example, although the fire is contained, large diameter trees and stump holes will continue to smolder well into the winter months,” Forest Service officials wrote in a Thursday morning incident update.

Containment took more than two months. The Caldor Fire started Aug. 14 near the town of Grizzly Flats, which was largely destroyed as the blaze ripped to the north toward the Pollock Pines area in its fierce initial sprint, before winds started blowing it to the northeast.

Through the latter half of August, the fire continued to creep east along Highway 50 and eventually made its way to the western edge of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The city of South Lake Tahoe, home to about 22,000 residents, was put under a mandatory evacuation order Aug. 30, lifted Sept. 5 as weather and fire behavior began to improve. A roughly 50-mile stretch of Highway 50 was also closed to the public for about a month.

The Caldor Fire destroyed just over 1,000 structures, most of them in Grizzly Flats but some along the Highway 50 corridor near the summit, near Phillips and Twin Bridges, according to a damage map from Cal Fire.

Two civilians were transported from Grizzly Flats with burn injuries. No fatalities were reported.

The Caldor Fire is the 15th-largest and 16th-most destructive wildfire in California’s recorded history, according to Cal Fire. Its cause remains under investigation.

Other large fires nearing containment

The Dixie Fire, which has burned in portions of Butte, Lassen and Plumas counties, was 97% contained as of Wednesday evening, according to the Forest Service. It is California’s second-largest fire ever at 963,309 acres (1,505 square miles).

The fire has been burning since July 13, with a few thousand firefighters assigned to the blaze during its peak. More than 1,100 remain assigned, working toward final containment.

The Monument Fire burning near Shasta-Trinity National Forest is 94% contained and “is essentially out,” Forest Service officials wrote Thursday morning. The fire, sparked by lightning on July 30, grew to 223,124 acres (349 square miles).

The Forest Service says crews are working to mitigate the impact of hazard trees near Big Bar, and that the next phase will be for scientists to work toward “emergency stabilization” of burned areas, including erosion control.

A series of powerful storms will hit Northern California in the next few days, including a “bomb cyclone” system peaking Sunday and Monday, will drop large amounts of precipitation on many of the state’s active wildfires, and will also help add moisture to critically dry fire fuels.

But it will also produce a risk of mudslides and flash flooding near burn scars, including the sprawling scars of the Dixie Fire and other major wildfires that burned in recent years such as the Carr, Zogg and Northern Complex fires.

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