A spot fire threatened the community of Twin Bridges, about nine miles from the shore of the lake, prompting evacuation warnings. Gusting winds Wednesday pushed the fire toward the lake, and warmer temperatures forecast for later this week could also spur the blaze.
The fast-growing Caldor fire was approaching the southern end of Lake Tahoe on Wednesday morning as winds continued to drive the flames toward the popular vacation destination.
A spot fire on the northeastern edge of the blaze threatened the community of Twin Bridges, about nine miles from the shore of the lake, prompting evacuation warnings.
As the blaze nears, the lake has been blanketed in smoke, turning skies an eerie orange and sending ash raining from the sky.
Winds were gusting up to 25 mph from the south and southwest on Wednesday morning, pushing the fire east and northeast, directly toward Lake Tahoe, but they were expected to abate somewhat later in the day. Temperatures were forecast to heat up beginning Thursday, which could spur the fire.
Since igniting more than a week ago, the Caldor fire has swelled to more than 126,000 acres, with explosive growth over the weekend. It has burned at least 461 homes, 11 commercial buildings and 165 minor structures.
At least 17,000 structures are threatened by the conflagration, which is 11% contained.
Dana Walsh, a spokesperson for the Caldor fire with the U.S. Forest Service, said the threat to Twin Bridges is not yet “imminent,” and firefighters were continuing to prioritize the eastern end of the blaze.
The spot fire near Twin Bridges was relatively small but could grow, with vegetation “very dry, easily ignitable,” Walsh said.
Officials at the Lake Valley Fire Protection District, headquartered in South Lake Tahoe, were on high alert.
“To say Lake Valley Fire is concerned is an understatement,” said Brad Zlendick, chief of the fire protection district.
“We’re concerned about it affecting our cabins, our homes up on top of Echo Summit,” Zlendick said during a community meeting Tuesday.
He said local fire officials were also concerned about the threat to the community of Meyers.
Officials said they were ready to evacuate the area between Twin Bridges and Echo Summit if necessary. At that point, an evacuation warning would be triggered for a portion of the South Lake Tahoe Basin, meaning that residents would need to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
Nearly 30,000 residents have fled their homes since the fire ignited Aug. 14 and began chewing its way through El Dorado County.
Firefighters are continuing to focus on trapping the blaze west of Highway 89, an artery that borders the western edge of Lake Tahoe.
They are also battling flames along the southwestern edge of the fire, not far from where it began Aug. 14, tearing through the community of Grizzly Flats.
Much of California is under “exceptional” drought conditions, with vegetation parched and primed to burn. Several large wildfires this year have charred more than 1.5 million acres across the state.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.