Caldor fire: Hottest day so far since the fire began

Spiking temperatures and increasing winds on Sunday added to the challenges faced by firefighters battling blazes across northern California, including the huge Caldor fire, which continued its march toward the Lake Tahoe resort region.

“It is going to be the hottest day so far since the fire began and unfortunately probably the driest,” said Isaac Lake, a spokesperson for efforts to stop the two-week-old blaze.

Flames churned through mountains just a few miles south-west of the Tahoe Basin, where thick smoke sent tourists packing at a time when summer vacations would usually be in full swing.

Triple-digit temperatures were possible and the heat was expected to last several days, Lake said. A weather watch for critical fire conditions was issued for Monday and Tuesday at higher elevations across the Northern Sierra. Crews working in rugged terrain scrambled to douse spot fires caused by erratic winds.

“It’s so dry out there that when embers blow out into the unburned fuel beds, the probability of ignition is 90%,” Lake said.

More than a dozen large fires are being fought by more than 15,200 firefighters across California. Flames have destroyed around 2,000 structures and forced thousands to evacuate while blanketing large swaths of the west in unhealthy smoke.

The Caldor fire, which broke out on 14 August, was 19% contained after burning nearly 245 sq miles (635 sq km), an area larger than Chicago. More than 600 structures have been destroyed and at least 18,000 were under threat.

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 8 September. But even that estimate was tenuous.

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