By Isabella Brady
Starting on August 14, 2021, the Caldor fire rapidly engulfed California’s El Dorado forest and threatened the homes surrounding South Lake Tahoe. Currently, the fire has exceeded 50 days, and 221,775 acres in both the El Dorado and Alpine counties. 91% contained, the historic fire continues to wreak havoc on California inhabitants.
Fueled by dry, poorly maintained forests and strong winds, the fire earned executive acknowledgment in President Joe Biden’s visit surveying the damage from the air. President Biden stated the tenuous conditions of the west are a result of “decades of forest management decisions”, concluding “we can’t ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change”. Thus, the destructive fire required national and even international assistance. As early as September 1, over 3,500 firefighters struggled to contain the fiery blaze, some of which were Mexican workers using work visas to join the effort. Today, 1,003 structures have been destroyed leaving the families of 782 homes devastated, and 18 commercial companies rushing to rebuild.
Although the evacuation orders were formally retracted on October 4, thousands of other inhabitants of the El Dorado forest region, will remain displaced. As the fires burnt countless trees and structures, they destroyed hundreds of ecosystems, many of which will take decades to recover. To aid Sierra wildlife, organizations such as the Dave and Cheryl Duffield Foundation work tirelessly to rescue and rehabilitate survivors. Despite these noble efforts, thousands of animal casualties continuously occur due to the fire, as bears and other animals perish, or must be euthanized due to the severity of their burns. Thus, the damaging fire spurs new questions: will wildlife suffer long term conditions or chronic illnesses as a result of inescapable smoke and pollution? Will habitat loss bring less animals into dangerous cities, or populated environments? As time passes, scientists must observe the impacts of the deadly fire on local communities of both humans and animals. Domestic animals were likewise threatened by the fire, as rushed evacuations prevented the removal of farm animals such as horses, chickens, goats and even emus. Executed by El Dorado Animal Services, over 1,800 animals were rescued and relocated to safe locations during the fires, a relief to thousands of farmers and landowners.
As the destructive fire has become increasingly contained, the massive impacts on the forestry industry and ecosystem are respectively more apparent. Therefore, the future of forest management and numerous species rests on California’s future action, whether it be proactive or constant.