California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials had to make a tough call, with a bear they could not transport to safety, and would have burned alive in the fire as it could no longer walk.
We are seeing some encouraging signs that the Caldor Fire’s growth may be slowing, and in what passes for good news in these situations, evacuation orders in some areas have been downgraded from “mandatory” to “recommended.” But there’s still plenty of heartbreak and loss of life ahead of us, as evidenced by a Chronicle report that an adult black bear had to be euthanized for burnt paws, wildlife officials announced Thursday.
A Chron photographer just happened to be nearby when the incident happened, and caught these unforgettable images of the bear attempting to walk and licking its paws trying to soothe the burns. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officials determined they had to euthanize the immobilized bear “basically right then and there, that it was going to burn to death."
An adult black bear that had third-degree burns on its paws from the Caldor Fire was euthanized by state wildlife officials.— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) September 3, 2021
The bear was “just too injured to move,” a fish and wildlife spokesperson said. https://t.co/wtZkhTFGTg
“It was a combination of the fact that the injuries were bad and there was no easy way to transport him out of the area because it was an active fire scene with firefighting going on,” CDFW spokesperson Kirsten Macintyre told the Chronicle. “If he hadn’t been so injured, he probably would have tried to get away from the firefighters in the first place, but he was just too injured to move.”
Yet the situation is not entirely grim, and in a Friday afternoon media update, U.S. Forest Service deputy regional forester Anthony Scardina said past actions like prescribed burns and forest thinning were paying dividends to prevent the fire’s growth.
"There were conditions where there were 150-foot flame lengths, and when they hit those field treatments work, bringing them down to 20-foot flame lengths," he said, according to KQED.
"But we're still not out of the woods," he added. "We're having some success, but there's still a lot of fire on the landscape. And weather conditions can change pretty quickly as you've seen."
Still, there's a growing sense of confidence that Lake Tahoe is saved. Homes there, and in Christmas Valley and Meyers, are largely standing. As of Friday morning’s report, barely over 2,000 acres had burned in the previous 24 hours. That’s down tenfold from earlier in the week, and Cal Fire officials are optimistic we’re looking at lighter winds tonight and this weekend.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WY - JULY 30: A black bear rest in a mixed age forest that partially burned in 1988 on June 30, 2018 in Yellowstone National Park, WY. The fires in 1988 burned 793,800 acres, 39% of Yellowstone's 2.2 million acres. After 30 years most of the parks lodgepole pines destroyed in 1988 have regenerated and are thriving. (Photo by William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images)