The wildfire, which ignited Saturday evening in El Dorado County, about 60 miles east of Sacramento, exploded from 6,500 acres Tuesday morning to 65,474 acres Thursday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. The fire has already left two people seriously injured and was zero percent contained.
"The unfortunate thing is that these fires continue to get bigger," Cal Fire Director Thom Porter said during a Wednesday press conference. "But we're surging resources into communities to protect and reduce the impact."
Fueled by dry conditions, Cal Fire said the fire continued to spread and "make runs in several steep drainages," making it more difficult for fire officials to accurately map the incident. Dozens of firefighters also faced dynamic conditions on the ground, including smoke from the nearby Dixie Fire, which has hampered air attacks.
The rapid growth of the Caldor Fire has forced 23,000 people to flee in El Dorado County as of Wednesday night, up from 6,850 on Tuesday, according to the California Governor's Office of Emergency Service. Evacuation warnings were issued for parts of Amador County, too.
A total of more than 36,000 people across multiple counties in California have been forced to evacuate as active wildfires continue to ravage the state.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for El Dorado County early Tuesday, mobilizing the California National Guard and freeing up additional resources for impacted communities.
Two people were flown to hospitals with serious injuries and very few homes were left standing in El Dorado County's Grizzly Flats. Streets in the town of about 1,200 residents 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.
On Tuesday, the neighborhoods of Pollock Pines, Sly Park, Happy Valley and the Grizzly Flats and Somerset areas were all issued mandatory evacuation orders while campers were rushed out of the Sly Park Recreation Area. Dark heavy smoke blanketed much of the area encircling the Caldor Fire, including nearby Lake Tahoe and other population destinations, prompting bumper-to-bumper traffic along evacuation routes.
More than 11,000 firefighters are fighting 13 large wildfires in the state, according to Cal Fire. Since January, the state has recorded a total of 6,603 wildfires that have burned nearly 1.4 million acres.
This year has seen extreme heat that helped fuel fires across the Western United States, which has been exacerbated by climate change.
The ongoing threat of the Dixie Fire, the largest burning blaze in the U.S. and the second-largest in California history, expanded to more than 678,000 acres and was 35 percent contained Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, the Monument Fire, northwest of the Dixie Fire, scorched more than 135,000 acres in Trinity County and was only 10 percent contained, prompting more evacuations in the area Tuesday evening.
Pacific Gas and Electric, the state's largest utility, shut off power for about 48,000 customers across 13 counties in California to prevent more wildfires Tuesday evening, according to the utility. The company said it has started to restore power for areas where severe weather conditions have cleared and expects to continue doing so for the remaining counties without power Thursday afternoon.