STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Caldwell Fire balloons to more than 63,000 acres, prompting evacuations

An incident management team is on the scene of a large lightning-caused fire roughly in the southeastern area of Lava Beds National Monument.

Posted: Jul 27, 2020 9:41 AM
Updated: Jul 27, 2020 9:25 PM

TULELAKE, Calif. — A lightning-sparked wildfire straddling Siskiyou and Modoc counties has grown rapidly over the weekend, forcing evacuation orders for parts of the Tulelake area.

The Caldwell Fire — now the largest wildfire in the area — started near Caldwell Butte, roughly in the southeastern area of the Lava Beds National Monument. It continues to spread quickly with the latest update Monday night estimating the fire to be 63,749 acres with 0 percent containment. Growth in all directions has brought it close to homes in multiple communities from Tulelake to Tionesta.

On Friday, fire officials estimated the Caldwell Fire at less than 7,900 acres, underlining the fire's tremendous growth over the weekend.

"Yesterday’s thunderstorms caused strong and erratic outflow winds that contributed to rapid fire spread on the Caldwell Fire," fire officials said on Monday. "The fire burned throughout the night and spread primarily to the north."

Fire officials said that they expected more "unstable conditions" on Monday, with winds expected to create more extreme fire behavior and growth.

By Monday afternoon, the Modoc County Sheriff's Office had ordered a mandatory evacuation for the community of Tionesta, just over the Siskiyou County line west of Highway 139 due to "unstable weather and extreme fire activity."

"Fire is active on the west and east sides of the fire," the U.S. Forest Service said. "Fire on the east is approaching Hwy 139. Firefighters are working aggressively to implement control measures and structure protection is in place where needed."

Both the Lava Beds park and the Medicine Lake Recreation Area are under mandatory evacuations due to the Caldwell Fire's spread. The 10 Road, or Lava Beds Road, has been closed since Thursday.

The Forest Service said that the Medicine Lake closure was "out of an abundance of caution" because the fire threatens to cross Forest Service Road 97, which could cut campers off from an exit to the east.

Over the weekend, the Modoc County Sheriff's Office issued mandatory evacuations for some county roads in the Tulelake area south of Highway 139, in addition to evacuation warnings for the Copic, Panhandle, and Peninsula areas south of the highway.

"Firefighters on the north of the fire will prioritize protecting structures in the Tulelake area and construct both direct and indirect containment line," fire officials said. "Crews on the west of the fire will continue work on the secondary containment lines between the fire and the Medicine Lake area."

The U.S. Forest Service called in a Type 2 Incident Management last week for multiple lightning-caused fires in the area, dubbed the July Complex. Most of the other fires in the complex are within Modoc County.

There were at least 15 active fires within the Modoc National Forest, according to fire officials, and most were kept to a small and manageable size. Several of those fires grew beyond initial containment efforts, but have since been fully lined.

The National Weather Service tweeted on Thursday afternoon, saying that it was monitoring a "scary situation" over the Caldwell Fire.

"The smoke has developed into a 'pyrocumulus' and has been generating lightning strikes for the last couple of hours. It will likely continue to do so until sunset," NWS said.

The formation of a pyrocumulus cloud could cause dry lightning strikes — potentially sparking even more fires — and high, erratic winds that cause the wildfire to move and grow in unexpected directions, NWS said.

USFS later said that those erratic winds have caused the fire to spread "in every direction, sometimes all at once."

A smoke plume from the Caldwell Fire is visible even from long distances.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32994

Reported Deaths: 547
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah7204138
Marion469594
Washington454060
Umatilla298741
Clackamas242061
Malheur163327
Lane123417
Jackson11615
Deschutes85212
Yamhill76213
Jefferson5418
Polk53215
Linn52213
Morrow5056
Lincoln48213
Union4462
Benton3146
Wasco2963
Klamath2802
Hood River2520
Douglas2334
Clatsop2170
Josephine1982
Columbia1791
Coos1570
Baker942
Crook621
Tillamook530
Lake330
Curry310
Wallowa311
Sherman180
Harney120
Grant100
Gilliam80
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 812711

Reported Deaths: 15633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2684556515
Riverside589321206
San Bernardino54482925
Orange534481216
San Diego46734776
Kern31994369
Fresno28441382
Sacramento22356406
Santa Clara21241314
Alameda21240406
San Joaquin20245441
Contra Costa16640206
Stanislaus16471356
Tulare15970263
Ventura12775150
Imperial11852317
San Francisco11195101
Monterey995372
San Mateo9897150
Santa Barbara9090113
Merced8872142
Kings765180
Sonoma7412122
Marin6730118
Solano640065
Madera453965
Placer358745
San Luis Obispo356229
Butte283344
Yolo281555
Santa Cruz23609
Sutter170511
Napa169013
San Benito134811
Yuba11537
El Dorado11304
Mendocino93418
Shasta88317
Lassen7400
Glenn5783
Tehama5735
Lake55511
Nevada5377
Colusa5316
Humboldt5088
Calaveras31714
Amador29616
Tuolumne2274
Inyo18815
Mono1662
Siskiyou1650
Del Norte1391
Mariposa752
Plumas500
Modoc270
Trinity160
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
98° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 98°
Brookings
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 67°
Crater Lake
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 84°
Grants Pass
Clear
95° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 95°
Klamath Falls
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 84°
Hot and dry week, smoke returns
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events