Caldor Fire Destroys Nearly All Homes in California Town of Grizzly Flats

The Caldor Fire destroyed nearly all homes in the California town of Grizzly Flats, a forest community of about 1,200 people, the Associated Press reported.

Homes in the town were ravaged by the fire, reduced to ash and metal. A post office and elementary school in the town were also destroyed. Downed power lines and poles destroyed by the fire littered the streets.

One Grizzly Flats resident, Derek Shaves, said he visited the town Tuesday after evacuating late Monday. He said that his home and most of the houses in his neighborhood were destroyed.

"It's a pile of ash," Shaves said. "Everybody on my block is a pile of ash and every block that I visited—but for five separate homes that were safe—was totally devastated."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Dixie Fire burning
The Caldor Fire ravaged the forest community of Grizzly Flats, destroying most of the homes in the town as California's wildfires continue. Above, the Dixie Fire burns in the hills on August 17, 2021, near Milford, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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.

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.

Governor 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.

Both fires grew by tens of thousands of acres from Monday afternoon through Tuesday, torching trees and burning up brush left tinder-dry by high temperatures, low humidity and drought. Afternoon gusts drove the flames.

At the Dixie Fire, numerous resources were put into the Susanville area, a city of about 18,000 a few miles from the northeastern edge of the blaze. Residents were warned to be ready to evacuate and new evacuations were ordered Tuesday for the month-old blaze, which was only a third surrounded.

Late Tuesday, Pacific Gas & Electric said it has begun shutting off power to as many as 51,000 customers in 18 Northern California counties to prevent wildfires for the first time since last year's historically bad fire season.

The utility said the shutoffs were focused in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the North Coast, the North Valley and the North Bay mountains and could last into Wednesday afternoon.

The nation's largest utility announced the blackouts as a precaution to prevent gusts from damaging power lines and sparking blazes.

PG&E has notified utility regulators that the Dixie fire may have been caused by trees falling into its power lines. The Dixie Fire began near the town of Paradise, which was devastated by a 2018 wildfire ignited by PG&E equipment during strong winds. Eighty-five people died.

The Dixie Fire is the largest of nearly 100 major wildfires burning across a dozen Western states, including Alaska. The wildfires, in large part, have been fueled by high temperatures, strong winds and dry weather.

Climate change has made the U.S. West warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more destructive, according to scientists.

Caldor Fire prevention
Jennifer Whitmore sprays her home with water as the Caldor fire burns near White Hall, California, on August 17, 2021. The fire destroyed most of the homes in the town of Grizzly Flats. AP Photo/Ethan Swope