Caldor fire: fear as raging blaze ‘knocks on the door’ of Lake Tahoe

An explosive wildfire is raging south-west of Lake Tahoe, sparking concerns in the towns and resort communities near the famed alpine lake.

The Caldor fire, just 9% contained, has become the nation’s number one priority for firefighting resources, said Chief Thom Porter, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“It is knocking on the door to the Lake Tahoe basin,” Porter said. “We have all efforts in place to keep it out of the basin but we do need to also be aware that is a possibility based on the way the fires have been burning.”

Porter said he personally did not believe the fire would get into the basin but that he could be proved wrong.

The Caldor fire has incinerated nearly 180 sq miles (466 sqkm) of El Dorado National Forest and destroyed nearly 500 buildings . More than 17,000 structures were still under threat.

Smoke from the fire on Monday forced the closure of public schools in parts of the Lake Tahoe area and across the state border with Nevada in the Reno and Sparks area.

The fire is just one of a dozen large wildfires raging across California.

The Dixie fire, which has burned more than 1,130 sq miles in the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades, by Monday evening was 40% contained.

The California governor, Gavin Newsom, on Monday requested a presidential major disaster declaration for eight counties, Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services, told a briefing near Sacramento.

If approved, the declaration would provide a wide range of assistance including housing, food aid, unemployment and governmental emergency costs, Ghilarducci said.

Nearly 43,000 Californians were under under evacuation orders and more than 500 households were in shelters, he said.

While southern California has so far escaped large scale wildfires this year, Los Angeles officials on Monday urged residents to be aware of what’s going on in the north because the region’s high fire season is typically late in the year when dry, gusty Santa Ana winds blast out of the interior and flow toward the coast.

“That awareness is going to help us when it happens here in southern California,” Los Angeles fire chief Ralph Terrazas said during a briefing. The mix of spring growth dried out by summer heat and high winds creates “a dangerous condition that could lead to large, fast-moving brush fires,” he said.

California’s fires were among more than 90 large, active blazes in the US, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

In Oregon, officials said a firefighter died Monday while battling a wildfire south-east of Eugene.

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