Progress reported in fighting Caldor fire near Lake Tahoe

With a favorable turn in weather conditions, firefighters made some progress Saturday against the massive Caldor fire that has been raging in the mountains near South Lake Tahoe.

Crews on the fire’s northeastern edge — the front closest to lake resorts — were “cautiously optimistic” Saturday as containment numbers increased for the first time in several days, from 12% to 19%, according to Cal Fire incident spokesman Jay Smith. The fire has so far burned 149,684 acres

Smith attributed the improvement to cooler weather and hard-working ground crews, particularly since significant smoke over the last several days had made aerial attacks challenging.

At a fire staging area inside the tiny town of Strawberry along Highway 50, the air remained smoky but less noxious than the day before. Smith said the priority for the day was “buttoning up” the fire’s northwestern edge, which saw some flare-ups overnight, and protecting Strawberry from the creeping flames.

“It’s burning at a low intensity, so there’s not a huge wall of fire coming this way,” Smith said, noting that crews were working fast to lay bulldozer lines and hand lines between the fire and Strawberry. “I’m pretty confident that we are going to be able to slow if not stop it from coming this way.”

But wind remains the “X factor” that can change conditions at a moment’s notice, he said.

“Just because you don’t feel wind here doesn’t mean there’s no wind in the canyons, and what happens is that wind gets in the canyon and shoots it in all different directions,” he said.

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