Updated September 3, 2021 - 8:01 pm
CARSON CITY — The Caldor Fire south of Lake Tahoe continued to have diminishing growth and greater containment Friday, prompting authorities to lift evacuation orders and allow thousands of residents to return to their homes.
While some 5,500 residents on the western edge of the fire in California’s El Dorado County got the all-clear, residents under evacuation orders in the eastern zone, which includes South Lake Tahoe and parts of Douglas County in Nevada, still have no timetable for when they will be allowed to return.
“We understand the impact of you not being in your home, and that’s our No. 1 priority is getting you back,” Jake Cagle, operations section chief in the eastern zone, said in the fire command team’s 5 p.m. community briefing. “I can’t give you a specific date. It’s all based on fire behavior. For now, things are looking good on that contingent. We’re getting close.”
As of 7 p.m., the fire was at 213,270 acres — approximately 333 square miles — and 32 percent contained, up from 29 percent containment Friday morning. Fire growth continued to slow amid improved weather conditions, with 363 acres added to the burn total on the day. By comparison, the fire grew by nearly 21,000 acres Sunday in high winds.
Friday morning, officials said the fire’s day-over-day growth of 2,350 acres marked the fourth straight day of declining expansion.
“Things are clearly heading in the right direction for us,” Sierra National Forest Supervisor Dean Gould said.
The fire has burned since Aug. 14, surmounting the Sierra Nevada range from west to east through lightly populated, mountainous and heavily forested terrain. It is only the second fire in California history to cross over from one slope of the range to the other. The first, the Dixie Fire, is still burning at 55 percent containment roughly 50-100 miles to the north.
Driven by gusty winds, the Caldor fire raced 40 miles to the northeast from its origin south of the Grizzly Flats community in El Dorado County. It burned to within 3 miles of South Lake Tahoe, and its northeasterly track toward the Nevada state line forced evacuation of communities in Douglas County.
While humidity is forecast to remain low, winds are expected to remain calm into the weekend, with temperatures rising and a high-pressure system building that will keep winds down, incident meteorologist Jim Dudley said Friday morning.
Fire containment operations are now divided into east and west zones. The west zone reported minimal fire growth, with firefighters looking for and extinguishing hot spots near their control lines.
In the east zone, fire teams worked to protect homes that line smaller lakes south of Lake Tahoe and secure lines to prevent the fire from moving closer to South Lake Tahoe.
The fire has destroyed 683 homes and more than 200 other structures, including commercial properties and other minor buildings; 31,901 structures were listed as threatened, according to a 7 p.m. update. The numbers increase as fire teams regain access to burned areas and add to their overall damage assessment, now 75 percent complete.
Six injuries have been reported, four to fire personnel and two to civilians.