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California Seeks Major Federal Help With Fires

13K firefighters are battling the blazes that have thousands of people under evacuation orders
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 23, 2021 7:35 PM CDT
California Seeks Major Federal Help With Fires
A helicopter flies Monday over crews working on a containment line on the south end of the Caldor Fire west of Grizzly Flats, California.   (Sara Nevis/The Sacramento Bee via AP)

(Newser) – More than 13,500 firefighters were working Monday to contain a dozen large California wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of people to flee to safety. After a review of the damage, Gov. Gavin Newsom requested a presidential major disaster declaration for eight counties, Mark Ghilarducci, state Emergency Services director, told a briefing near Sacramento. If approved, the declaration would provide a wide range of assistance including housing, food aid, unemployment, and governmental emergency costs, the AP reports. Nearly 43,000 Californians were under evacuation orders, and more than 500 households were in shelters, Ghilarducci said. The smoke reached Nevada, causing public schools in the Reno and Sparks area and parts of Lake Tahoe to close, affecting 67,000 students.

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New concerns were developing at the explosive Caldor Fire southwest of Lake Tahoe, the famed alpine lake straddling the California-Nevada state line and surrounded by peaks of the Sierra Nevada and resort communities. The Caldor Fire has become the nation's No. 1 priority for firefighting resources, said Chief Thom Porter. "It is knocking on the door to the Lake Tahoe basin," Porter said. The Caldor Fire has incinerated more than 166 square miles of El Dorado National Forest, and continuing assessments showed 447 buildings destroyed. More than 17,000 structures were still under threat. To the north, containment increased to 40% at the Dixie Fire, which has burned more than 1,130 square miles in the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades. Ongoing assessments showed 1,259 buildings destroyed, including 678 single-family homes, Cal Fire said.

(Read more California wildfires stories.)

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