Fires

Controlled burn that turned into wildfire fully contained in Eldorado National Forest

Smoke is seen rising from the Caples Fire in the Eldorado National Forest in El Dorado County on Oct. 9, 2019. The Caples Fire started as a prescribed burn Sept. 30 to reduce fuel and create defensible space. But when winds changed, rapidly pushing flames south and west, officials declared it a wildfire to obtain additional fire fighting resources.
Smoke is seen rising from the Caples Fire in the Eldorado National Forest in El Dorado County on Oct. 9, 2019. The Caples Fire started as a prescribed burn Sept. 30 to reduce fuel and create defensible space. But when winds changed, rapidly pushing flames south and west, officials declared it a wildfire to obtain additional fire fighting resources. U.S. Forest Service

A 3,435-acre wildfire that originated as a prescribed burn in the Eldorado National Forest has been 100 percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service said late Friday morning.

Crews are assessing the area affected by the Caples Fire, which burned 320 acres outside the southern boundary of its intended zone, the Forest Service said in a news release. The fire was still burning inside project boundaries when it was first declared a wildfire, but was “killing too many trees and other live vegetation.”

The fire grew minimally between Oct. 18 and Friday, but severe wind on Sunday created three small spot fires that were quickly extinguished, according to the news release.

Eldorado National Forest crews had been igniting controlled burns as part of a multiyear, 8,800-acre vegetation management project. The burn zone is on the northern ridge of Caples Creek, near Highway 88.

The final round of burns in the most recent phase of the project were ignited Oct. 8. On Oct. 9, the first severe wind event of the month blew through most of Northern California, increasing wildfire risk. On Oct. 10, U.S. Forest Service officials declared the Caples Fire a wildfire and began working actively to suppress it.

“Although the intensely burned areas of the Caples Fire are within the size range and severity of historic fires in the Sierras, visitors may be surprised at the number of trees that are now dead,” Forest supervisor Laurence Crabtree said in a statement.

Friday’s news release notes, though, that the extra burn severity may have “some ecological benefits.”

“Species that are adapted to fire and to the conditions found in the early stages of the forest will flourish in the large open areas and diverse habitat created by the Caples Fire,” the news release said.

By Oct. 10, smoke from both the Caples Fire and the Briceburg Fire, which burned near the entrance to Yosemite National Park, brought hazy skies and a smell of smoke to east Sacramento County and much of El Dorado County.

Smoke from the fire may still be visible in the immediate area for several more days, the Forest Service advises.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.
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