Lighter than expected winds and a temperature decrease Tuesday night allowed firefighters to make slight progress in containing the Caldor Fire. But officials warn that there is still a "long grind ahead of us" as the massive blaze along the California and Nevada border now burns at more than 200,000 acres with only 20% of it contained.
"We had a nice inversion come in probably around at midnight, one o'clock in the morning that put a real damper on things and slowed a lot growth so a lot of opportunity to make some progress last night," operations section chief Tim Ernst said Wednesday morning.
He said concealing fire lines along the southwest corner of the wildfire are "looking really good" and predicted another 36 to 48 hours before the fire in the Butte Creek and Grand Point area is fully contained.
"We're starting to get a pretty good handle on a lot of this stuff," Beale Monday, with team two of the National Incident Management Organization, said of the portion of the fire in the Angora Peak and Indian Rock area.
But the night's progress didn't last for long – low humidity and strong winds Wednesday triggered red flag warnings from the National Weather Service. They will remain in effect late into the evening.
"The main thing that's uniform across the fire is that the air mass is extremely dry, very low relative humidities," meteorologist Jim Dudley said Wednesday.
He warned of upcoming "gusty, erratic winds" that may stoke Caldor's flames. "Wind is going to be the main driver," he said.
"We've had tremendous changing wind and weather, and we're seeing fire behavior that, most could agree with me, we may never see again in our whole lives," Jeff Marsolais, forest supervisor for the El Dorado National Forest, said.
Officials have focused on preventing fire spread in areas including Wrights Lake, Lower Echo Lake and the west side of Meyers, California.
"We all know we still have a long grind ahead of us," safety officer Jamal Cook said Wednesday. He advised fire officials to pace themselves.
"Fatigue can and will set in," he said. "This is a team sport, so it's incredibly important to not only stay physically engaged but also mentally engaged."
The Caldor Fire — which is one of the largest in California's history — is projected to be fully contained by September 13, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. So far, 544 single residences have been destroyed, 43 structures have been damaged and more than 30,000 others lie in the wildfire's potential path.
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