Forecasted high winds fan concerns over growing Caldor Fire

A wildfire blazing through California’s El Dorado County grew to more than 82,000 acres burned as of Saturday morning, forcing the continued closure of a highway between Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. Authorities in the area are concerned that the up to 40 mph winds forecast for Saturday will fan the flames of the Caldor Fire, according to a CBS Sacramento report.

So far, the Caldor Fire has destroyed 245 homes and threatens 15,000 other structures. Cal Fire said Saturday the fire, which started a week ago, is zero percent contained. 

The 46-mile stretch of Interstate 50 closed Friday remained shut into the weekend as the fire grew, CBS Sacramento reported

“Given the forecast that we have for the weekend with wind gusts 25 to 35 miles per hour, we have no idea what that is going to do with the fire,” spokesman for Caltrans Steve Nelson said.

Officials feared the winds would drive the fire toward traffic.

“We started to receive debris on the freeway, making it dangerous for cars to pass. We are going to invest everything we can to hold the fire south of 50,” Cal Fire operations section chief Eric Schwarts said.

The Caldor Fire is one of 13 fires burning in the state, including the mammoth Dixie Fire, which had burned more than 714,219 acres as of Saturday morning and is only 35% contained. The Dixie Fire, the second largest in the state’s history, has destroyed more than 1,200 homes and forced evacuations in Plumas County on Friday. Two years of drought have helped the fires spread through the dry grass, brush and forest, the Associated Press reported.

New satellite photos released Friday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show smoke stretching across the state and into the Pacific Northwest.

California isn’t the only state struggling to cope with wildfires. Ninety-six large fires in a dozen states have burned a total 2,427,574 acres, according to data released Saturday by the National Interagency Fire Center — nearly 3,800 square miles.

According to the Associated Press, firefighters are being taxed by intense fires across the region in a nearly year-round season. Fire patterns used to migrate in seasons from the Southwest to the Rockies, to the Pacific Northwest and then California, allowing fire crews to move from one place to the next, Anthony Scardina, deputy regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service, told the AP. 

“But the problem is all of those seasons are starting to overlap,” Scardina said.