STRAWBERRY (CBS13) – Heavy smoke is smoldering the Caldor Fire, and slowing the flames as they inch closer to the town of Strawberry along Highway 50. Crews are staged in the area ready for what could come. Flames are burning in steep canyons only miles away.

Captain Jason Hunter, working public information for the Caldor Fire, called the heavy smoke in the area a double-edged sword.

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“Even though it limits some of our aircraft options,” Hunter said. “It is helping slow the intensity of the fire spread.”

The air quality in some areas was listed off the charts on Friday. A drive down Highway 50 with low visibility looked like winter weather conditions, but it was all smoke – making it hard for all to breathe.

“It affects our fatigue,” Hunter said. “It affects our ability to work.”

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The smoke stifled some, but not all of the flames. The crackles could be heard up steep canyons with worries about more wind. The steep terrain creates challenges for fire crews as the Caldor Fire remains the number one fire concern in the nation, burning more than 140,000 acres sp far. More than 3,000 personnel are assigned to it.

“A lot of it is life safety is what it boils down to,” Capt. Hunter said, talking about protecting communities to the east of Strawberry and those evacuated – living in parking lots to the west. That includes evacuees like Chelsie Allman, who is on day ten of sleeping in a makeshift tent outside of her car.

“It’s just hard with the smoke and the heat,” Allman said. “I’m just hoping that it ends soon because all anyone wants is to go home.”

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Evacuees like her eagerly await relief as fire crews simultaneously hope to catch a break.