Jeff Marsoleis is El Dorado National Forest's forest supervisor. He said, "Today's been an extremely difficult day. There's no doubt about it." He thought crews could stop the Caldor Fire's eastern progress a few days back, but it "took its course today."
Flames churned through mountains just a few miles southwest of the Tahoe Basin, where thick smoke sent tourists packing at a time when summer vacations would usually be in full swing ahead of the Labor Day weekend.
"To put it into perspective, we have been seeing approximately a half mile of movement around the fire's perimeter every day over the past couple of weeks and today, this has already moved 2.5 miles (4 km) on us, with no sign it's slowing down," stated Cal Fire Division Chief Eric Schwab.
The terrain in Northern California is so rugged, crews had to bring fire hoses from Highway 50 by hand to put out spot fires that were caused by erratic winds.
The forecast was not optimistic: triple-digit temperatures were possible, and extreme heat was anticipated to last for several days. Red flag warnings for fire danger were issued across the Northern Sierra on Monday and Tuesday.
August 14th saw a blaze that erupted and burned nearly 245 square miles (635 kilometers) of land. This was almost twice the area of Chicago. More than 600 structures were destroyed, and at least 18,000 more were in danger.
The Caldor Fire has proved so difficult to fight that fire managers pushed back the projected date for full containment from early this week to Sept. 8. Even that estimate was uncertain.
After winds caused a new fire, the Railroad Fire, to spread across Interstate 15 in Southern California, Sunday afternoon, the section was closed.
After a wildfire quickly spread through the Cleveland National Forest, further south evacuation orders and warnings were still in effect for remote communities. A firefighter received minor injuries and two structures were destroyed in the 2.3-square-mile (5.9-square-kilometer) Chaparral Fire burning along the border of San Diego and Riverside counties, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was contained to 10% on Sunday.
California's Dixie Fire was contained to 48% in the Sierra-Cascades region, 65 miles (105 km) north of Caldor Fire. It is the second-largest state-wide fire in California history, at 1,193 sq miles (3,089 sq kilometers). Nearly 700 homes were among the nearly 1,300 destroyed buildings since the fire started in early July.
The 12-day-old French Fire covered 38 miles (98 km) of the southern Sierra Nevada. Containment rose to 22%. Crews secured the West Side of Lake Isabella, which is a popular recreation area north of Bakersfield.
California has more than 15200 firefighters fighting large fires. Around 2,000 structures were destroyed by flames, forcing thousands of people to evacuate. Large swathes of the West were also blanketed in toxic smoke.
California fires are one of nearly 90 large blazes across the U.S. Many of them are burning brush and trees that have been left to die from drought in the West. According to scientists, climate change has made the region more hot and dryer over the past 30 years. It will continue to make wildfires more destructive and the weather more extreme.
According to the U.S. Army North, 200 U.S. Army soldiers will be sent from Washington and other equipment, including eight U.S. Air Force C-130 planes. This is in aid of firefighters in Northern California. C-130s can now be converted into air tankers capable of pouring thousands of gallons water on the flames.