The Caldor Fire in the Sierra Range continues jumping barriers as it heads toward Lake Tahoe, forcing more evacuations in its path.
Low humidity and high winds are just two of the obstacles facing the 2,100 firefighters now battling the fire.
It’s not the largest fire in the state, but at almost 120,000 acres and growing and with unfavorable forecasts ahead, it’s a major threat.
“This fire is the focus of everyone right now across the nation,” said Captain Keith Wade, Caldor Fire information officer.
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The towns of Kyburz and Strawberry are now fully evacuated as wind and heavily forested steep canyons continue to stall the firefight.
“We call it ‘billy-goating,’ where they have to hike and climb and get to these areas,” said Wade.
He said the heavy, but extremely dry underbrush blanketing the forests make it even more complicated as the Caldor Fire finds plenty to feast on while winds blow it forward.
“We don’t have record of fire in a lot of these areas for decades, maybe even 100 years. It tells you these fuel loads are very heavy as these firefighters move out into these terrains,” said Wade.
More than four dozen bulldozers are already assisting in the firefight and more are arriving daily, focusing on cutting off those fuels and the flames before they reach the mountain communities along the highway.
Fire officials are thankful people followed evacuation orders and roadways have been cleared for fire traffic only.
“We appreciate their willingness and their patience to let us do our jobs, and try to save their homes and keep them safe and we’re going to move as fast as possible to get them back into their properties,” said Wade.
Fire officials addressed some of those concerns in a remote town hall with folks in the Tahoe-Basin area. They said they still feel confident they’ll stop the fire from reaching Lake Tahoe.
Businesses are 25% of normal, air quality is unhealthy, which is keeping tourists away -- something South Lake Tahoe mayor is painfully aware of.
“Paradise has changed the way we react to fire in our community,” said Mayor Tamara Wallace. “We know we are in danger even though the fire is 20 miles away. We know that fire behaves differently now.”