Rapidly developing Caldor Fire prompts Newsom to declare state of emergency

Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced a state of emergency in El Dorado County due to the rapidly-developing Caldor Fire in the Sierra Nevada.

Two civilian injuries associated with the fire were reported, Cal Fire officials said. One person approached firefighters who rendered aid before an air ambulance transported them to the hospital. A second person was also transported to the hospital by air ambulance with serious injuries.  

The Caldor Fire, east of Omo Ranch and south of the community of Grizzly Flats, has exploded to nearly 50 square miles and remains 0% contained after burning for three days. 

A news release from Gov. Newsom's office stated the fire is threatening approximately 7,500 homes, power lines and has caused thousands of residents to evacuate. 

Shelters filled up quickly as the sheriff's department redirected fleeing residents from one area to another, by sharing information on social media, including where RVs and travel trailers were welcome. 

Very few homes were left standing in Grizzly Flats, where streets were littered with downed power lines and poles. Houses were reduced to smoldering ash and twisted metal with only chimneys rising above the ruins. A post office and elementary school were also destroyed.

"It’s one of those thoughts that you see it on T.V., you see other communities have to deal with it. You say well that sucks," said resident Will Berndt.

The fire has forced him to evacuate with some clothes and a few valuables; tools he says he hopes he won’t have to use.

"Pressure washer, chainsaws my tools. It’s the most important thing cause if I have to go back and rebuild my house, I don’t have insurance on it," Berndt said.

People from the Pollock Pines area were then ordered to evacuate Tuesday afternoon. Placerville police said to expect congestion on westbound Highway 50 as residents fled their homes.

Newsom has also proclaimed a state of emergency in counties impacted by the McFarland and Monument fires, Antelope and River fires, Dixie, Fly and Tamarack fires and the Lava Fire and Beckwourth Complex.

By Tuesday night, Newsom had secured three Fire Management Assistant Grants for the State of California through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They are for the fires burning in El Dorado, Trinity and Lassen counties. 

The fire had prompted the immediate emergency closure of the Eldorado National Forest. The order is in effect through Sept. 30. The order prohibits use of areas, roads and trails within the forest at all times. Conditions will be assessed daily to determine if it is safe to lift the closure, U.S. Forest Service said in a press release. 

More information on the Caldor Fire including evacuations here: https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2021/8/14/caldor-fire/

and here.

KTVU's Andre Senior contributed to this report.