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"Things are looking good": Fire crews gaining control of Caldor Fire, some evacuees return home

Photographer talks about covering wildfires
Wildfire photographer discusses his experience covering California wildfires 07:51

Fire crews battling the massive Caldor wildfire in California and Nevada had a "monumental day" Friday when better weather allowed for substantial progress to be made in containing the blaze, officials said Saturday morning. Hundreds of evacuees have now returned to their homes as evacuation orders in certain affected areas have recently been decreased to warnings. 

"The incident continues to look better and better every day," West Zone Operational Chief Tim Ernst said at a community briefing Saturday. "We talked about yesterday being cautiously optimistic and we continue in that mode."

In the past 24 hours, the Caldor Fire grew by only 800 acres — the smallest daily increase since the blaze ignited on August 14, U.S. Forest Service administrator Dean Gould said Saturday. "That's pretty impressive," he added. 

Lighter winds and higher humidity levels throughout the week have allowed crews to increase containment of the 214,107 acre fire to 37%, managing to largely gain control of its western border. Incident meteorologist Jim Dudley said similar conditions were expected Saturday. 

Evacuation orders have been reduced to warnings in areas throughout El Dorado County, California, with fire officials advising residents to "stay vigilant" of the fire's updating conditions. However, residents in areas like Tahoe Island and Tahoe Keys are still under evacuation orders, with an unclear estimate of when they'll be able to return home. 

"It's all based on fire behavior," Jake Cagle, fire operations section chief, said. "For now, things are looking good."

Fire behavior analyst Steven Volmer warned crews not to become complacent by the recent progress.

"There's still a lot of heat out there," he said. "There's still a lot of hot timber. There's still a lot of tree stumps. There's still a lot of potential for this fire to get a move on us."

Operations are now focused on putting out any spot fires that may arise, keeping the fire north of both Highway 4 and Highway 88 and controlling areas around Bloodsucker Lake. The massive blaze is expected to be fully contained by September 27, according to Cal Fire.

The CBSN documentary "Bring Your Own Brigade" captures the horror and heroism of the deadliest week of wildfires in California history and explores the causes and solutions of a global crisis. Stream it now on the CBS News app or Paramount+.

"Bring Your Own Brigade" 02:00:07
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