For weeks the wildfires in Northern California — which have so far burned more than 1.3 million acres of land — have mostly skipped across sparsely populated areas and have not required mass evacuations.
But the Caldor fire, which began east of Sacramento over the weekend, has changed that equation. As of Wednesday evening, the uncontained blaze had forced about 23,000 residents of El Dorado County to leave their homes, the governor’s office reported. Nearly a third of those evacuations were confirmed on Wednesday in a space of less than six hours.
Traffic is backed up all along Sly Park Rd heading toward Hwy 50 as residents evacuate #CaldorFire pic.twitter.com/UudSUzvhTk
The overall statewide evacuation figure stood at more than 35,000 people as of Wednesday night. That included more than 7,000 residents who had fled the Dixie fire, the second-largest blaze in California’s recorded history. The Dixie has so far burned more than 662,000 acres over four counties — Butte, Plumas, Lassen and Tehana — since it emerged in mid-July. It was 35 percent contained on Wednesday, up from 31 percent a day earlier.
More than 3,000 people have also been evacuated from Trinity County, where the Monument fire (10 percent contained) has burned through more than 128,000 acres since late July. And in Lake County, about 700 people fled a new fire, the Cache (20 percent contained), after it started north of Santa Rosa on Wednesday.
By 5 p.m. on Wednesday, there were 369 people sheltering at 11 wildfire shelters around California, according to the governor’s office. And with more than 10,000 personnel battling a dozen large wildfires in the state, there were signs that further evacuations would stretch its emergency response resources even thinner.
A hospital in El Dorado County, the Marshall Medical Center, said on Wednesday that its staff visit evacuation shelters to offer minor treatment. In an effort to free up space for coronavirus patients and people suffering from smoke inhalation, the hospital has urged fire evacuees who test positive for Covid-19 to avoid coming in for treatment if they do not require emergency care.
That night, Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency said that one of the three shelters serving people fleeing the Caldor fire was already full. So was a nearby animal shelter.
At a news briefing on the Caldor fire, Dusty Martin, a Cal Fire official, asked residents to be patient on the question of “repopulation.”
“The fire fighters on the ground are doing everything they can to start bringing some containment to this,” he said of the fire. “But understand: It is going to take some time before we can get you back into your communities.”
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