Caldor Fire explodes in size destroying several structures, prompting evacuations

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Thursday, August 19, 2021
El Dorado Co. wildfire explodes in size, several structures destroyed
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The Caldor Fire burning in El Dorado County south of Pollock Pines exploded in size Monday night prompting mandatory evacuations.

POLLOCK PINES, Calif. (KGO) -- The Caldor Fire burning in El Dorado County south of Pollock Pines exploded in size Monday night into Tuesday prompting mandatory evacuations and destroying several structures.

The California Office of Emergency Services says that Pollock Pines was evacuated Tuesday night and says, "it's going to be a very long night." Thousands of people have already left their homes, but Cal OES says that number is increasing exponentially as sheriff's deputies evacuate more foothill communities.

According to CAL FIRE, the fire has burned more than 30,000 acres and is 0% contained.

CAL FIRE issued new evacuation orders Tuesday night for the south side of Highway 50 north of Sly Park and extends west to Snows Rd. Those orders also include the north side of Highway 50 from Larsen Dr. to the west and Ice House to the east.

Here is a map of the latest evacuation orders issued by the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office:

For a better experience, click here to view the full map in a new window

The California Highway Patrol is also alerting those who live in the Tahoe Basin to be prepared for Highway 50 to be shut down due to the fire and are telling residents to find alternative routes now.

The Placerville Police Department tweeted Tuesday evening that all the traffic lights on Highway 50 and through town have been switched to green to help those evacuating the fire.

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The Caldor Fire started Saturday and remained small until winds fueled its growth to about 10 square miles (26 square kilometers).

About 2,500 people were under evacuation orders and warnings, said Chris Vestal, a fire spokesman. Only a handful of firefighters remained in the Grizzly Flats Tuesday, extinguishing residual fires.

Very few homes were left standing in that town, 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.

Vestal said he could not say how many were affected as it was not safe for inspectors.

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"They're worried about trying to put out the fire or save homes," he said. He said one person was injured in the fire. He did not provide additional details.

CAL FIRE says two people were seriously injured in the Grizzly Flats area on Tuesday. One of the victims approached firefighters and was provided medical aid until being transported by air ambulance to a local hospital. The second victim was also flown to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.

Tami Christner, 36, said she and her family left their Grizzly Flats home late Monday when they got the notice to evacuate. She and her husband started packing earlier in the day and got their three children, 20 chickens, three ducks, two cats, two hamsters, a dog and a rabbit out. One cat, Minion, was lost and didn't make it out with them, she said.

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"I am not 100% sure if my house is gone, but it might be," she said.

People trying to escape the flames jammed up Highway 50 through Placerville Tuesday as evacuations were ordered. The CHP tweeted "Be prepared!" and said parts of 50 may close because of the fire, and to leave South Lake Tahoe as soon as possible.

"People are panicking for sure. I panicked a little, I have my Dad who can't walk and my grandbaby," said Pollock Pines resident, Renne Gautier, who lined up for gas after leaving her home so quickly she didn't have time to rescue her pets. "I had to leave my cats, they wouldn't get in the crate so that's not a good thing, that's not a good feeling at all."

People throughout the region were offering assistance to evacuees, including the four-footed kind. Susan Collins of Placerville used her horse trailer to help move two horses Tuesday after offering help on an El Dorado County Facebook page.

"I know not everybody is prepared when something like this happens, and my purpose in life is to be there to help people," she said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Click here for the latest on evacuations from the El Dorado County Sherrif's Office.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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