Key Wildfire Headlines
- Windy Conditions Cause Fire Growth in Western US: There are currently 83 large fires burning across the United States, mainly concentrated in California, Montana and the Pacific Northwest. These fires are almost entirely uncontained and growth is being driven by dry and windy conditions across the region. Large fires of note are the Dixie Fire at over 807,000 acres burning 15 miles northwest of Paradise, and the Caldor fire at 165,000 acres burning on the southern edge of South Lake Tahoe.
- Growing Numbers of Structures Threatened: With wildfires continuing to encroach on the built environment across the state of California, already 2,800 structures have been lost in the state in 2021. Extreme growth of the Caldor Fire has forced the evacuation of the entire town of South Lake Tahoe in California, with 33,000 structures immediately threatened, and gusty winds expected to drive further growth.
- Drought Expands in Western United States: More than 95% of the West is in a state of drought with over half the region in extreme to exceptional drought. According to the National Drought Monitor, this is the most extensive and intense drought of the century. Climate outlooks indicate warmer than average temperatures are expected across much of the United States, especially in the West, moving into the fall.
Current Large Fire Incidents as of August 31, 2021. Source: NIFC
Growing Caldor Fire
- Weather Conditions: The Caldor fire ignited on August 14th and has been burning slowly east for the past several weeks. Strong winds have contributed to extreme fire behavior and rapid fire growth since Saturday. Winds overnight pushed the fire across Highway 50, which fire fighters were hoping to hold. Red Flag warnings are in the place for the region into Wednesday, with strong gusty winds expected to create dangerous fire spread potential today.
- Fire Fighting: There are currently 3,900 fire personnel battling the Caldor Fire. In addition to 415 fire engines, there are also 25 helicopters assisting in fire fighting, along with numerous air tankers from throughout the state flying fire suppression missions as conditions allow. The terrain is steep, it is very heavily timbered, and many of the roads are narrow and difficult to navigate with the large equipment. The fire is moving very quickly into an area that has significant structure density in the communities of Christmas Valley, Echo Lake, Meyers and South Lake Tahoe.
- Evacuation and Threat to People and Property: A mandatory evacuation notice was put in place on Monday morning encompassing the entire city of South Lake Tahoe and additional smaller communities from the Nevada state line around the western edge of the lake to the community of Tahoma. The Caldor fire spotted east across Highway 89 late Monday night, giving it a more direct path into Meyers and past that, South Lake Tahoe. The ski resorts of Kirkwood and Sierra at Tahoe are also immediately threatened by the wildfire, and are actively using snowmaking machines to help aide fire fighters. To date, 486 homes have been destroyed, along with 11 commercial properties.
- Other Fires in the Region: Elsewhere in the region, the Tamarack Fire has burned 68,000 acres just to the east of the Caldor Fire. It is 83% contained with minimal fire activity expected. Seven weeks after it ignited, the Dixie Fire to the north has burned over 800,000 acres and is forcing additional new evacuations in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Gusty winds are creating rapid spread on the northern and southeastern flanks of the fire, with Red Flag Warnings continuing through tomorrow.
Caldor Fire as viewed using an infrared camera looking southwest from Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe at 4:45 am PT on August 31, 2021. Source: NWS / NOAA
Caldor Fire new growth toward South Lake Tahoe, as of August 31, 2021. Source: NWS / NOAA
Critical Fire Weather Outlook showing elevated and critical risk in the vicinity of the Caldor Fire. Source: NOAA / SPC
Red Flag Warnings (pink) and wind advisories (beige) encompassing the Caldor, Dixie and Tamarack Fires. Source: NWS Reno
Dixie Fire new growth , as of August 31, 2021. Source: NWS / NOAA