GRIZZLY FLATS, Calif. - Northern California wildfires that incinerated two mountain communities continued marching through the Sierra Nevada on Wednesday while a utility purposely blacked out as many as 51,000 customers to prevent new blazes.
Two weeks after the Dixie Fire destroyed most of the Gold Rush-era town of Greenville, the Caldor Fire a few miles southeast exploded through tinder-dry trees and ravaged Grizzly Flats, a forest community of around 1,200 people about 70 miles from Sacramento. By Wednesday morning, the Caldor Fire more than doubled overnight, from 22,000 acres to 54,000 acres, or about 84 square miles. It was 0% contained.
Fire officials estimated that at least 50 homes had burned in the area since the fire erupted Saturday and two people were hospitalized with serious injuries. Nearly 6,000 structures are threatened.
Firefighters say the Caldor Fire fire has grown so quickly they’ve had a hard time even keeping their maps updated with the perimeter. Video from the scene shows the enormous wall of flames racing through part of El Dorado County.
"The challenges are what we face in a lot of these faces in remote areas," Cal Fire spokesman Chris Vetal said on Wednesday. "We have some very steep drainages and canyons that make creating a containment line difficult. In some areas we are unable to use our heavy machinery like bull dozers so we have to use our hand crews."
Vetal said the fire is moving very fast and is moving north, which prompted the El Dorado County Sheriff to order new mandatory evacuations for much of Pollock Pines, including areas north of highway 50. Cal Fire expects more evacuations.
"We have perfect conditions for extreme and critical fire behavior and fast spread," Vetal said. "Everybody in the area needs to heed any sort of evacuation order of warning."
Will Berndt is one of those Grizzly Flats evacuees. He was able to grab some clothes and tools before driving to a hotel.
"It’s one of those things you see on TV," he said. " You see other communities have to deal with it. You say well that sucks."
On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency in El Dorado County, where authorities were considering closing the entire El Dorado National Forest.
"We know this fire has done things that nobody could have predicted, but that’s how firefighting has been in the state this year," El Dorado National Forest Supervisor Chief Jeff Marsolais said at a briefing.
More information on the Caldor Fire including evacuations here: https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2021/8/14/caldor-fire/and here.
The AP contributed to this report. This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.