(InEDC) BY Lysée Mitri, KCRA Published: 8:12 PM PDT Aug 13, 2023
GRIZZLY FLATS, Calif. — Monday marks two years since the Caldor Fire sparked in El Dorado County. The fire destroyed more than 1,000 buildings and devastated the community of Grizzly Flats.
To this day, many people in Grizzly Flats face a long road to recovery. Some residents did not have wildfire insurance when the flames tore through the area and after the disaster, people were denied federal assistance from FEMA.
“The price of insurance kept going up and up, and I had to drop my insurance,” R.W. MacNiel said.
He and his girlfriend, Cathie Adams, lost their two-story house in the fire.
“The old Grizzly is not coming back,” MacNiel said.
The community church, the local Post Office and Walt Tyler Elementary School were all destroyed. Two years later, empty lots remain where the buildings once stood.
Overlooking the hillsides of Grizzly Flats, there is some new construction underway but many residents have had no choice but to live in RVs on their land.
“Trying to do any building up here is more trouble than it’s worth,” MacNiel said.
MacNeil and Adams said they are not sure what they will be able to do moving forward.
“In spite of what you see here, I love the people and I want to stay here. I hope that we’re able to do that, though we don’t have resources to rebuild at this time,” Adams said.
MacNiel said he joined several other Caldor Fire survivors in filing claims for damages against the U.S. Forest Service, alleging that the federal agency failed to protect Grizzly Flats. If those claims are denied, the residents may consider a lawsuit.
A father and son are accused of causing the wildfire in August 2021. David Smith and Travis Smith are charged with recklessly starting the fire that spread from El Dorado County into Amador and Alpine Counties, burning for months.
The men have pleaded not guilty to the charges. They are expected in court next week.