OAKLAND, Calif. - Federal and state officials said Monday that California's Caldor Fire is the nation's top priority.
Gov. Gavin Newsom urged President Joe Biden to declare the wildfire, which is burning in Amador and El Dorado counties, a major disaster incident. That could pave the way for federal aid to go toward housing assistance and food for affected families.
Meanwhile, an army of firefighters continues battling 13 fires across the state, from the ground and air.
"The wildfires across the state have already caused extensive damage to residence and infrastructure," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services.
At a mid-afternoon briefing, state and federal officials explained the complicated series of chess moves they’re making to stay ahead of spreading flames.
Currently, 13,000 firefighters are working the 13 major wildfires in California. Crews from every corner of the state, and beyond have been deployed to stop the relentless march of flames.
"The drought conditions are definitely making it challenging to get containment on these fires. Some of them are moving up to eight miles a day. And that’s going to be something that’s really hard to build lines around and get resources on," said Dr. Amanda Stasiewicz, a wildlife management policy expert at the San Jose State University.
Cal Fire officials said over the weekend, gusty winds helped the Caldor Fire jump Highway 50. New spot fires, near Kyburz, California, are burning in a remote location. Additional resources have been deployed to make sure they don’t grow and make matters worse.
"We have many large damaging fires that area on-going, particularly in the north part of the state. And they’re going to continue to grow and get bigger. But it does allow for us to move resources, to surge resources from the south part of the state," said Cal Fire Director Chief Thom Porter.
The California National Guard is utilizing 11 military helicopters, and upwards of eight air tankers to give crews on the ground a chance to dig containment lines.
"Use of aircraft slows the fires so that we can get boots on the ground and put those fires out," said Porter.
The plans all hinge on the mercurial Mother Nature and the effects of an ongoing drought that’s leading to a new norm for fire season.
"Mother Nature is in control and we’re doing everything we can to save your lives and property," Porter said.
Cal Fire officials said so far, three times the acreage of the state’s five-year average has already burned. For that reason, they ask all California residents to ready emergency bags and provisions in case of fires in southern California.