- A red flag was in force throughout the northern Sierra for the next two days.
- The evacuation warnings have been extended to the city of South Lake Tahoe and the surrounding areas.
- Wind and drought fuel the spread of the fire.
As the Northern California Caldor Fire moved closer to Lake Tahoe and triggered a broader evacuation warning late Sunday, conditions on Monday could challenge firefighters who were urgently working to keep the fire at bay.
A red flag was held throughout the northern Sierra for the next two days, and low humidity and gusty winds were expected to create conditions for the fire to grow.
Fire officials extended their evacuation warning to the city of South Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area on Sunday after the fire became “more aggressive than expected” and was about 10 miles from the lake’s basin.
Jeff Marsoleis, forest ranger for the El Dorado National Forest, said firefighters were hoping they could keep the flames from spreading eastward, but “let go” on Sunday.
“Today was a tough day and it’s not entirely clear,” he said.
The Caldor Fire began on Aug. 14 and has since burned more than 263 square miles with only 13% containment, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. More than 650 buildings have since been destroyed, Cal Fire said.
Firefighters have fought in the rugged terrain, in some cases carrying hoses from Highway 50 to put out wind-triggered fires.
More about the Caldor fire:South Lake Tahoe is now under evacuation warning as crews are struggling to slow the fire
Wind and drought encouraged the fire to spread on Sunday. “To put it in perspective, we’ve seen about half a mile of movement around the fire every day for the past few weeks, and today this has moved 2.5 miles away with us with no sign of it that it’s starting to slow down, “said Eric Schwab, head of the Cal Fire division.
The East Fire Press has brought its flames much closer to the popular vacation spot around Lake Tahoe, where thick smoke has already led many to leave the area. Nine National Forests in the area have also been temporarily closed, according to Cal Fire.
“Since we’re closer to the state line, it’s all just tourism, with everyone coming here for casinos,” said Breeana Cody, a local bar and grill worker. “But at the moment everything is pretty empty.”
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 85 major fires and complexes currently burning have burned more than 3,900 square miles. 13 major fires are burning in California alone.
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To the east of the Caldor fire is the Tamarack fire, which firefighters have largely contained 82% of the time. Meanwhile, the Dixie Fire, which is further north and 48% enclosed, is the second largest in the state’s history at 1,196 square miles. According to Cal Fire, the Dixie Fire destroyed 1,277 homes and other buildings.
In recent years, climate change has led to particularly active fire seasons in the west. Warming temperatures have made it easier for fires to burn bigger and more frequently.
Contributors: Jorge Ortiz, USA TODAY; Kristin Oh, Reno Gazette Journal; The Associated Press