Caldor Fire Destroys Over 600 Structures, Nearly 2,900 Firefighters Working Blaze

The Caldor Fire has destroyed over 600 structures as it continues to blaze, with nearly 2,900 firefighters assigned to help combat the fire that began on August 14, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Ongoing damage assessments have so far counted a total of 637 homes, businesses and other structures destroyed by the fire. It ripped through the small community of Grizzly Flats, where nearly every home was destroyed.

Firefighters have been working to combat the conflagration with the aid of 21 helicopters, 245 engines and dozens of bulldozers. The Caldor Fire is currently the nation's main priority for assigning firefighting resources.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Firefighter puts out spot fires
The Caldor Fire has been 12 percent contained as nearly 2,900 firefighters combat the blaze. In this photo, a firefighter puts out spot fires from the Caldor Fire along the Mormon Emigrant Trail on Aug. 19, 2021 in Pollock Pines, Calif. Allison Dinner/Getty Images

California weather was heating up and winds were shifting Thursday as more than 14,000 firefighters battled wildfires up and down the state, including a major blaze they hoped to keep out of the Lake Tahoe resort region.

Onshore winds from the west and southwest were changing direction to offshore, blowing out of the north or northeast, and fire weather watches were to go into effect in Northern California by the end of the week, the National Weather Service said.

The Caldor Fire grew to more than 213 square miles (551 square kilometers) southwest of Lake Tahoe but containment remained at 12 percent, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Smoke stained the normally blue skies over the alpine lake but the pollution level Thursday morning was reduced to "unhealthy," down two levels of severity from 24 hours earlier when it was "hazardous," according to the U.S. Air Quality Index.

Statewide there were 14 large fires, including a blaze that erupted Wednesday in Southern California, which has so far escaped the scale of wildfires plaguing the north all summer.

The South Fire about 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of Los Angeles covered 700 acres (283 hectares) after destroying 18 homes, commercial and other structures. Fire activity decreased after the early hours but it remained uncontained on mountain slopes.

In the southern Sierra Nevada, the 9-day-old French Fire covered more than 34 square miles (88 square kilometers) and was 19 percent contained. Some structures were seen burning in Sequoia National Forest and it posed threat to numerous communities on the west side of Lake Isabella, a popular outdoor recreation area northeast of Bakersfield.

Meanwhile, California's Dixie Fire, the second-largest in state history at 1,167 square miles (3,022 square kilometers) was 45 percent contained in the Sierra-Cascades region about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of the Caldor Fire. Nearly 700 homes were among almost 1,300 buildings that have been destroyed since the fire began in early July.

Nationally, 88 large fires were burning Thursday in 13 mainly Western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

Climate change has made the 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.

California Wildfires
More than 14,000 firefighters are currently battling wildfires across California. Flames from the French Fire consume a cabin on Highway 155 in Sequoia National Forest, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. Noah Berger/AP Photo