Home Internet Devastating wildfires advancing through Northern California

Devastating wildfires advancing through Northern California

by Mary Sewell

GRIZZLY FLATS, Calif. — Northern California wildfires that incinerated two mountain communities continued marching through the Sierra Nevada on Wednesday while a utility purposely blacked out as many as 51,000 customers to prevent new blazes. Two weeks after the Dixie Fire destroyed most of the Gold Rush-era town of Greenville, the Caldor Fire, more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) southeast, exploded through tinder-dry trees and ravaged Grizzly Flats, a forest community of around 1,200 people. Fire officials estimated that at least 50 homes had burned in the area since the Caldor Fire erupted Saturday, and two people were hospitalized with severe injuries.

Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency in El Dorado County, where authorities considered closing the entire El Dorado National Forest.

“We know this fire has done things that nobody could have predicted, but that’s how firefighting has been in the state this year,” El Dorado National Forest Supervisor Chief Jeff Marsolais said at a briefing.

Both fires grew by tens of thousands of acres from Monday afternoon through Tuesday, torching trees and burning up brush left tinder-dry by high temperatures, low humidity, and drought. Afternoon gusts drove the flames.

Few homes were left standing in Grizzly Flats, where streets were littered with downed power lines and poles. Houses were reduced to smoldering ash and twisted metal with only chimneys rising above the ruins. A post office and elementary school were also destroyed.

Hulks of gutted vehicles were among the ruins, and the skeletons of chairs stood in rows among the ashes of a church.

Derek Shaves, who had evacuated late Monday, said he visited the town Tuesday and saw his home, and most of the houses in his neighborhood had been destroyed.

“It’s a pile of ash,” he said. “Everybody on my block is a pile of ash, and every block that I visited — but for five separate homes that were safe — was totally devastated.”

Pollock Pines, a town of about 7,000, was included in a wide area added to evacuation orders late Tuesday as the fire covered nearly 36 square miles (93 square kilometers).

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