PLACERVILLE (CBS13) — The Caldor Fire has grown to more than 700 acres in El Dorado County as of Monday, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes near Omo Ranch and Leoni Meadows.
“I spent the night in the parking lot in Placerville at Walmart in my car,” said Will Berndt.READ MORE: Proposed Campground Expansion At Auburn State Recreation Area Draws Concern Over Wildfire Risk
Berndt is affectionately called “Will from the Hill.” He knows all that goes on in this neck of the woods.
“This one may have been started by some campers, we don’t know,” he said.
A former volunteer firefighter who has been living in Grizzly Flats for 45 years, Berndt says he felt frustrated as he watched the Caldor Fire double in size Sunday with no air tankers attacking it across the rough terrain – just three helicopters.
“It went behind it going toward [the] Middle fork of the Cosumnes up towards Omo Ranch. We saw no fire trucks,” Berndt said. “We saw nobody in a pickup truck that had any information – so it’s like, wait a minute, why don’t we know what’s going on?”
And limited cell service just made matters worse.READ MORE: Fire Burning In Highway 160 Overpass Reveals Person Living Inside
“The tower is on the other side of that hill and I can’t get anything,” said one woman we stopped.
It was getting smokier hour-by-hour, and the wind was starting to pick up – prompting Mandatory Evacuation orders for Leoni Meadows as of midday Monday.
Down the road, the Diamond Springs fire hall was on standby to serve as an evacuation center.
“We have some stuff together, [but] not a lot,” said one man. “You just can’t take that much with you.”
In these tightly-knit communities, information spread like wildfire.
“They said it’s a good possibility the fire may come flying through here so tomorrow, you may not even see that sign saying Leoni Meadows.”MORE NEWS: Rio Linda Crash Leaves 1 Dead, 2 Injured
The U.S. Forest Service says smoke grounded the air tankers and that they had 90 crews on Sunday, with 285 crews now out on Monday with more on the way.