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Caldor Fire evacuation orders eased; favorable weather to aid battle against California blaze

The Caldor Fire, which prompted a citywide evacuation of South Lake Tahoe this week, was 25 percent contained Thursday, officials said.

Authorities lifted some evacuation orders in El Dorado County in Northern California, where the tenacious Caldor Fire had displaced thousands of people.

Calmer winds and moderate humidity assisted firefighters Thursday in their efforts to slow the wildfire, which began Aug. 14. The Caldor Fire is considered the 15th largest in state history, spanning about 210,000 acres, officials said. The fire was 25 percent contained Thursday afternoon.

Orders were lifted in seven areas in El Dorado County, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire. Evacuation orders were downgraded to evacuation warnings in three more areas of the county, officials said.

Stephanie Lockhart of North Tahoe Fire knocks down hot spots in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2021.
Stephanie Lockhart of North Tahoe Fire knocks down hot spots in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., on Wednesday.Fred Greaves / Reuters

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued Monday for residents and tourists in South Lake Tahoe, a resort city of about 22,000. That order was unchanged Thursday.

Pushed by strong winds, the fire had crossed two major highways and burned mountain cabins as it swept down slopes into the Tahoe Basin, NBC Bay Area reported. Nearly two dozen helicopters and three air tankers dumped thousands of gallons of water and retardant on it this week, officials said.

The Lake Tahoe area, which offers beaches, water sports, hiking, ski resorts and golfing, bustles with tourists all year. South Lake Tahoe is known for outdoor activities, while in nearby Stateline, Nevada, tourists can gamble at major casinos.

The fire has burned toward Lake Tahoe from the southwest along California Highway 50, climbing over a Sierra Nevada summit and descending into the Tahoe Basin, NBC Bay Area reported.

Residents in parts of Douglas County, Nevada, were under evacuation orders Tuesday evening because of the approaching flames.

They were also instructed to turn off sprinkler systems before leaving their homes in worsening drought conditions across the West. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak declared states of emergencies Monday because of the Caldor Fire’s persistent trek toward Lake Tahoe.

Chief Thom Porter, director of Cal Fire, said this week that only twice in California history have blazes burned from one side of the Sierra Nevada to the other, both this month — the Caldor and Dixie fires.

The Dixie blaze, the second-largest wildfire in state history, covered 859,457 acres and was considered 55 percent contained Thursday. Earlier in the week, it was about 65 miles north of the wildfire near Lake Tahoe, officials said.

The Caldor Fire has threatened about 32,000 structures and destroyed more than 800 others, officials said. Three highways remained closed Thursday, Cal Fire said.

Officials said Thursday that about 15,300 firefighters were battling 16 major wildfires in California. The threat of fire is so widespread that the U.S. Forest Service announced Monday that all national forests in California would be closed until Sept. 17.