Evacuation orders in areas close to Lake Tahoe, including the city of South Lake Tahoe, were downgraded to warnings on Sunday, allowing thousands of residents to return home almost a week after being forced out by threatening flames.
The Caldor Fire got increasingly under control thanks to favorable weather conditions on Sunday, but Monday threatens to bring some more wind to the area. As KCRA reports, Sunday was the fire's slowest day of growth since its first day three weeks ago. As of Monday morning, containment on the fire stands at 44%.
While damage inspections continue, Cal Fire says that 80% of structures in the fire's path have been inspected, and the toll stands at 714 homes and 18 commercial properties destroyed. Over 27,000 structures remain threatened, though the threat to South Lake Tahoe, which seemed severe just a week ago, has begun to fade, to the great relief of homeowners and business owners there.
At 3 p.m. on Sunday, Cal Fire downgraded evacuation orders for much of South Lake Tahoe, and areas next to the lake, east of Highway 89, in Tahoma and Emerald Bay to warnings. Evacuation orders remained in effect for the areas of Fallen Leaf Lake, Meyers, Christmas Valley, and North Upper Truckee.
WHAT: Evacuation Orders Downgraded WHEN: Effective Immediately— CAL FIRE AEU (@CALFIREAEU) September 5, 2021
WHERE: El Dorado County
Evacuation Order Update:
The following Evacuation Orders have been downgraded to Evacuation Warnings in El Dorado County:#caldorfire pic.twitter.com/ph2Jupa7HF
South Lake Tahoe lost out on what would normally have been a bustling and profitable Labor Day Weekend, and evacuees were slowly returning home as of Sunday evening, per the Associated Press. Also, the air around South Lake Tahoe remained very smoky and unpleasant, especially for those with compromised lungs.
"So far it hasn't been a mad rush of cars," said South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief Clive Savacool during an evening briefing. "We're happy to see that people are slowly trickling in, just because the city does need time to get ready."
El Dorado County sheriff's Sgt. Simon Brown issued a warning about bear activity, saying that during the evacuation, bears had moved freely through residential areas and spread a lot of garbage around — and maybe even broke into some homes.
The fire has moved into remote wilderness areas east of Highway 89, well south of South Lake Tahoe — with the eastern front of the fire now creeping south rather than east. Consequently, evacuation orders in Douglas County, Nevada were also downgraded, as the fire so far seems to have stopped moving toward the Nevada border.
""We're up into the wilderness area," said Jake Cagle, a fire operations section chief, per the Associated Press. "It's just a tough piece of ground. We're in there beating it up. It's over a two-hour hike to get in there."
Firefighters also spent Sunday putting out spot fires and flare-ups within the burn area, and patrolling the residential area of Meyers.
As the Tahoe Daily Tribune reports, a high pressure system looked to bring warm temperatures and only localized wind to the area Monday. Firefighters are aiming to get the Caldor Fire 50% contained in short order, prior to full containment.
As of Sunday, around 14,500 firefighters continued battling 13 separate wildfires around the state of California.
Top image: A dog sits in a car in heavy traffic on Hwy 50 as people evacuate ahead of the Caldor Fire on August 30, 2021 in South Lake Tahoe, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)