Thursday, 20 July 2017

Wildfire in Yosmite National Park area


Official warns Yosemite-area fire could double again tonight

19 July, 2017

The wildfire that's already consumed more than 48,000 acres and destroyed more than two dozen structures in the foothill town of Mariposa outside Yosemite National Park could again double in size overnight, firefighters fear.

Toni Davis, spokeswoman for Cal Fire's Tulare Unit, noted that the destroyed area has had a pattern of doubling at night, and Wednesday night's temperatures are expected to match the previous two.

The fire continues to rage in every direction and as of Wednesday night was still just 7 percent contained, exactly where it began the day. Fire officials said Wednesday the Detwiler Fire is among the most unpredictable blazes they've ever seen.

"It's creating its own pattern," said Steve Kaufmann, Cal Fire Incident Team 4 spokesman. "The fire will move one way and then it will move another way."

At one point, the fire moved a mile an hour, destroying everything in its path.

Firefighters — 3,175 of them — are working hard to save homes, but the swift-moving flames make it hard for hand crews, engines — 413 — and the 14 airtankers to catch up.

Eight structures had been destroyed and one damaged Wednesday morning. By 7 p.m., that number had jumped to 29 structures destroyed and five damaged.
Surface air quality observations across & western Nevada this afternoon & satellite showing smoke plume.

Law enforcement agencies have conducted most of the evacuations for the Mariposa area, which is filled with firefighters, not residents. The order covers some 5,000 residents, who have been cooperative, Kaufmann said. That figure swelled from 2,000 in the morning.

"We know what a home means to somebody and we know what the value is," he said. "I've heard firefighters who've been doing this for 30-plus years say they've never seen a fire move like this."

One direction it's moving is toward Yosemite. It’s peak tourist season in one of the nation’s most-visited national parks.

A spokeswoman for Yosemite National Park could not give an estimate of how close the fire would have to get to park boundaries before an evacuation would take place there. For now, visitors should not have to change their plans, Nancy Phillipe said.

Jamie Richard, ranger and public affairs officer, said all park trails are open. Apart from some ash in the air, she said, people are continuing to enjoy their stay.

Dozens of people are out taking walks, visiting restaurants,” she said.


More than 20,000 people visit Yosemite each day.

The park is making due without some of its rangers because they're affected by the fire, Richard said. She said about 50 of its 800 rangers are impacted.

Richard said the rangers who were in Mariposa, especially along the Highway 140 corridor where multiple road closures are in place, may have evacuated the area.

'It's hot... It's awful'

Power outages are adding to residents’ woes near Mariposa.

Denny Boyles, a PG&E spokesman, said about 8,900 customers are without electricity in the area. The outages are a combination of fire damage and areas where service was turned off for firefighter safety.

Boyles said PG&E crews are out in the area assessing the damage and planning repairs.


Fighting the Detwiler Fire from the ground and air, crews say the blaze near Yosemite National Park is one of the most unpredictable they've ever seen. (Photo: Calley Cederlof)

Lois Good, cashier at Oasis Gasoline on Highway 140 in Cathey’s Valley said the station's employees had to shut down the shop after losing electricity Tuesday. Good said gas is still available, though. About 50 fire trucks stopped by to fill up Tuesday afternoon, she said.

She returned Wednesday morning and opened the shop with the help of a generator.

We’re back in business,” she said.

About two miles west of Oasis Gasoline, Carol Brown, 74, runs the 160-acre A Lazy B Ranch, where she lives with her family and cares for 50 cattle, 20 horses, and 10 chickens. Brown said Highway 140 is completely shut down, and authorities are not allowing people to cross the road.

San Rafael and Marin FF's continue to assist battling the dangerous making progress and helping to save lives and property.
 


She said she was lucky to have a landline so her family could reach her, but was frustrated by the lack of cell phone service and power outage.

It’s hot. With no air conditioning, it’s awful,” she said.

Brown's son, who also lives on the ranch, headed to Merced to get water for the family. He's also planning to buy a hundred pounds of ice so they can try to preserve the meat they keep in three full-size freezers.

A wildfire burning close to Yosemite National Park in Central California is moving towards a Gold Rush-era town and threatening 1,500 homes. The fire has burned at least 39 square miles. (July 19) AP

Brown said the ranch has well water, but the pump requires electricity. She was able to get it working on a generator last night. She said she doesn’t plan on leaving, but said if it comes down to it, she would open the gates for her animals, gather her family and dogs, and go.

I don’t want to even think about it,” she said.

Red Cross offering shelter

About 250 people have sought shelter at five locations opened by the American Red Cross of Central California

It’s a very large operation for us right now,” said Red Cross spokeswoman Jessica Piffero. “I can’t remember the last time we opened a shelter like this.”

Piffero said volunteers have been on hand helping set up evacuees with clothing and medications.

We’re doing everything we can to help families,” she said.

American Red Cross volunteers from all over the state have been called to help to support the operation, Piffero said.

The following Red Cross shelters are available to Detwiler Fire evacuees:


  • Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church – 50443 High School Road, Oakhurst, CA 93644
  • Cesar E. Chavez Middle School – 161 Plainsburg Rd., Planada, CA 95365
  • Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church – 39696 CA-41, Oakhurst, CA 93644
  • Mountain Christian Center – 40299 CA-49, Oakhurst, CA 93644
  • Groveland Community Hall – 18720 Highway 120, Groveland, CA 95321
  • With reporting from John Bacon, USA TODAY.


Earlier updates from this developing story:

Update 3:50 p.m. Wednesday

Denny Boyles, a PG&E spokesman, said about 8,900 customers are without electricity in the area of the Detwiler Fire. The outages are a combination of fire damage and areas where service was turned off for firefighter safety.

Boyles said PG&E crews are out in the area assessing the damage and planning repairs.

Update 3:30 p.m. Wednesday

Update 3 p.m. Wednesday

Fire officials say the 45,000-plus acre fire is among the most unpredictable blazes they've ever seen.

"It's creating its own pattern," said Steve Kaufman, Cal Fire Incident Team 4 spokesman. "The fire will move one way and then it will move another way."

Law enforcement agencies have conducted most of the evacuations for the Mariposa area, which is filled with firefighters, not residents. Residents have been cooperative, Kaufmann said.

"We know what a home means to somebody and we know what the value is," he said. "I've heard firefighters who've been doing this for 30-plus years say they've never seen a fire move like this."

One direction it's moving is toward Yosemite.

A spokeswoman for Yosemite National Park could not give an estimate of how close the fire would have to get to park boundaries before an evacuation would take place there. For now, visitors should not have to change their plans, Nancy Phillipe said.

More than 20,000 people visit Yosemite each day.

Update 2 p.m. Wednesday

Power outages are adding to the woes of residents near Mariposa, where crews continue a battle to save the town and some 2,000 people have been evacuated.

According to PG&E’s website, 548 customers between Bagby and Bear Valley are without electricity. However, that count may not be complete as customers in Cathey’s Valley are also reporting outages.

Calls to PG&E were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Lois Good, cashier at Oasis Gasoline on Highway 140 in Cathey’s Valley said the station's employees had to shut down the shop after losing electricity Tuesday. Good said gas is still available, though. About 50 fire trucks stopped by to fill up Tuesday afternoon, she said.

She returned Wednesday morning and opened the shop with the help of a generator.

We’re back in business,” she said.

About two miles west of Oasis Gasoline, Carol Brown, 74, runs the 160-acre A Lazy B Ranch, where she lives with her family and cares for 50 cattle, 20 horses and ten chickens. Brown said Highway 140 is completely shut down, and authorities are not allowing people to cross the road.

She said she was lucky to have a landline so her family could reach her, but was frustrated about the lack of cell phone service and power outage.

It’s hot. With no air conditioning, it’s awful,” she said.

Brown's son, who also lives on the ranch, headed to Merced to get water for the family. He's also planning to buy a hundred pounds of ice so they can try to preserve the meat they keep in three full-size freezers.

Brown said the ranch has well water, but the pump requires electricity. She was able to get it working on a generator last night. She said she doesn’t plan on leaving, but said if it comes down to it, she would open the gates for her animals, gather her family and dogs, and go.

I don’t want to even think about it,” she said.

Update 1:25 p.m. Wednesday

Yosemite National Park is making due without some of its rangers because they're affected by the Detwiler Fire, a spokeswoman said.

Jamie Richard, ranger and public affairs officer at the park, said about 50 of its 800 rangers are impacted.

Richard said the rangers who were in Mariposa, especially along the Highway 140 corridor where multiple road closures are in place, may have evacuated the area.

Update 12:45 p.m. Wednesday

About 250 people displaced by the Detwiler Fire outside Yosemite National Park have sought shelter at five locations opened by the American Red Cross of Central California.

It’s a very large operation for us right now,” said Red Cross spokeswoman Jessica Piffero. “I can’t remember the last time we opened a shelter like this.”

Piffero said volunteers have been on hand helping set up evacuees with clothing and medications.

We’re doing everything we can to help families,” she said.

American Red Cross volunteers from all over the state have been called to help to support the operation, Piffero said.

The following Red Cross shelters are available to Detwiler Fire evacuees:


  • Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church – 50443 High School Road, Oakhurst, CA 93644
  • Cesar E. Chavez Middle School – 161 Plainsburg Rd., Planada, CA 95365
  • Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church – 39696 CA-41, Oakhurst, CA 93644
  • Mountain Christian Center – 40299 CA-49, Oakhurst, CA 93644
  • Groveland Community Hall – 18720 Highway 120, Groveland, CA 95321
  • Original story

A 70-square-mile blaze just west of Yosemite National Park has forced 2,000 people to evacuate and is rapidly expanding through thick vegetation in hot, windy conditions.

Fire officials say the Detwiler Fire doubled in size overnight and now threatens some 1,500 homes. It is only 7 percent contained. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency.

The blaze has not closed Yosemite, but is creating smoky conditions and, if it grows, may affect access roads at the peak of the tourist season in one of the nation’s most-visited national parks.

For a full list of evacuated areas and road closures, click here.

For now, Jamie Richard, ranger and public affairs officer, said all park trails are open. Apart from some ash in the air, she said, people are continuing to enjoy their stay.

Dozens of people are out taking walks, visiting restaurants,” she said.

Firefighters, meanwhile, face a difficult task.

"Any time you have a fire like this and you have a community like this, it's going to be considered threatened," state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokesman Isaac Sanchez said. "When you add the fact that there are foothills, when you add in the slopes and the grades and the temperatures we are dealing with, the humidities we are dealing with, it's a full-on challenge."

This story is rapidly developing. Check back for updates throughout the day



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