- The Caldor Fire rapidly grew to about 84 square miles.
- A school, church and several buildings were destroyed in Grizzly Flats.
- Changing winds could further fuel the flames.
A ferocious wildfire exploded in size after burning much of a small town as it raced through parts of Northern California’s El Dorado County.
Dubbed the Caldor Fire, the blaze started on Saturday. Tuesday night, the fire covered about 6,500 acres, or around 10 square miles, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. By Wednesday morning, that number had grown to more than 53,000 acres, or about 84 square miles.
A CalFire update called it “unprecedented fire behavior.”
And there’s no relief in sight. Changing winds could push the fire into new areas.
“The concern today is that winds are going to switch from yesterday’s, which were mostly out of the south, and today they’re going to come from the north and northeast,” Chris Vestal, a CalFire public information officer, told weather.com in a phone interview Wednesday morning.
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Drier-than-usual conditions could also help fuel the blaze.
“Humidities are going to be extremely low, anywhere from 9 to 12%, combined with extremely low fuel moistures which are about two months ahead of normal for this time of year,” Vestal said. “So, perfect conditions for rapid fire spread and critical fire behavior.”
Red flag warnings, which indicate dangerous fire weather, are in effect through Wednesday or Thursday for much of Northern California, including El Dorado County.
At least two people were injured in the community of Grizzly Flats, much of which was destroyed by the fire. One of the people approached firefighters on foot. Vestal said both had serious injuries and were hurt in separate incidents, but he said he could not release further details.
Grizzly Flats, home to some 1,200 people, is about 51 miles east of Sacramento. An elementary school, a church and numerous structures were burned when the fire moved through Tuesday, according to the Sacramento Bee.
“My place was down that driveway this morning, two hours ago,” Levi Ogden, who was standing on an overlook watching the fire, told the newspaper.
Ogden was looking at photos he had taken on his phone of firefighting vehicles in the driveway.
“They had the hoses out of the truck, so I’m guessing it’s probably gone if they were trying to put it out earlier,” he said.
Vestal said there was no official estimate yet of how many buildings were destroyed, but nearly 6,000 remain threatened by the flames in the overall area of the fire.
Multiple evacuation orders and warnings remained in effect Wednesday morning. At least 6,500 people have been told to leave their homes, the Bee reported. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for the area Tuesday afternoon.
Evacuation centers were opened in Cameron Park, Placerville and at the Diamond Springs Fire Hall. The fire hall location was full Wednesday morning, according to CalFire.
About 100 miles to the north, the Dixie Fire continues to rage. The blaze, which decimated the town of Greenville and has burned more than 1,200 buildings, was 31% contained as of Wednesday morning. But it increased in size by about 50 square miles and has now scorched more than 990 square miles.
Power company PG&E told officials their equipment may have sparked the fire.
The cause of the Caldor Fire is still under investigation.
The two blazes are among more than 100 large wildfires burning in 12 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Most are in the West, where heat, wind and in some areas historic drought are contributing to the dangerous fire weather.
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