Part One: Caldor Fire Response Call Logs Reveal Delays, Confusion

This article is the first in a series examining the initial response to the Caldor Fire August 14-17, 2021.

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At 6:50 p.m. on August 14, 2021, Travis Shane Smith called 911 from an ATV trail on the north side of Dogtown Creek to report seeing fire to the south. Four minutes later the information Shane provided was routed to the CalFire Emergency Command Center in Camino. Because the fire was located on United States Forest land, the Eldorado National Forest fire chief officers were immediately dispatched. It was now 6:56 p.m. From this moment forward, call and radio logs suggest a disturbing pattern of confusion, missteps, and miscommunication. This article, the first in a series, examines the initial response to the Caldor Fire, a response one firefighter at the scene described as, “Nothing but chaos.”

The initial calls between 6:50 and 6:56 p.m. dispatched fire chiefs from the Eldorado National Forest (ENF), the nearby Pioneer Fire District, and CalFire. Importantly, ENF would be the lead agency due to the location of the fire. A chief from the Pioneer Fire District was the first to arrive in the general vicinity. Unfortunately, he was unable to locate the fire due to incorrect directions. It was 7:22 p.m.