A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California seriously injured two people and prompted mandatory evacuation orders for thousands of residents and tourists in El Dorado County on Tuesday morning.
The Caldor Fire, which ignited Saturday evening in the Omo Ranch area, about 60 miles east of Sacramento, exploded Tuesday from 6,500 acres in the morning to roughly 30,000 acres by the evening hours, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.
It remains zero percent contained.
Firefighters continue to face dynamic conditions on the ground. Smoke from the nearby Dixie Fire hampered air attack efforts while the shapeshifting nature of the Caldor Fire has made it difficult for officials to accurately map the incident, Cal Fire officials said during a community meeting Tuesday evening.
“We are here to see this until the end,” said Cal Fire incident commander Dusty Martin.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for El Dorado County earlier in the day, mobilizing the California National Guard and freeing up additional resources for impacted communities.
Residents in the town of Grizzly Flats were hit hard by the fire. Two people were airlifted with serious injuries and very few homes were left standing in Grizzly Flats, a town of about 1,200 residents, where streets were littered with downed power lines and poles. Houses were reduced to smoldering ash and twisted metal with only chimneys rising above the ruins. A post office and elementary school were also destroyed.
“Night firefighting and challenging terrain made accessing the fire difficult,” the El Dorado Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “The fire burned very actively throughout the night.”
Authorities expanded evacuation orders for neighboring communities Tuesday morning — including for residents in Sly Park, Happy Valley and the Grizzly Flats and Somerset areas — while campers were rushed out of the Sly Park Recreation Area. Dark heavy smoke blanketed much of the region, including in nearby Lake Tahoe and other population destinations, prompting bumper-to-bumper traffic along evacuation routes.
Nearly 17,000 people across California are under evacuation orders, according to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, or Cal OES.
This year has seen extreme heat that helped fuel fires across the Western United States, which has been exacerbated by climate change.
The growing threat of the Dixie Fire, the largest burning blaze in the U.S. and the second-largest in California history, may force more than 39,000 customers across 16 counties to lose power to prevent more wildfires, according to the state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric.
Most of the shutoffs will occur in two counties, including Butte, one of four counties where the massive Dixie Fire has scorched nearly 570,000 acres, the utility said. The fire was 31 percent contained as of Monday.
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