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The Madera Tribune

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Railroad Fire grows to nearly 10k acres, threatens Sugar Pine

September 5, 2017

As of early Labor Day morning, the Railroad Fire, which began Aug. 29, continued its rampage towards the southeast and burned 9,790 acres with 23 percent containment. Also, a spot fire in the area of Bissett Station Road to the southwest began Sunday night, with additional evacuations ordered, and pre-evacuation advisories added along the area of Road 620.


The fire continues to burn in high tree mortality areas in areas that have not burned in nearly 100 years, officials said. Spotting due to dry conditions continues to present operational challenges for firefighters in both day and night shifts, officials said, and tree mortality continues to pose an increased safety risk for personnel working this fire.


However, the lower temperatures projected for the week, along with increased moisture and cloud cover in the region, should help in the effort.


Cheryl Chipman, information officer with the South Central Sierra Interagency Management Team, didn’t have official numbers on the size of the spot fire near Worman Road that began Sunday evening. Initial scanner reports indicated it was around 10 acres, but later grew, possibly to as much as 75 acres.


She said the plan for the day was to work on that spot fire while also protecting Sugar Pine, to the southeast of the blaze’s origins near Fish Camp.


“I imagine there will be aircraft getting to that spot fire if they can,” Chipman said. “It’s still pretty smoky, so it’s usually mid day before the aircraft can fly because of smoke. There’s lots of roads out there, so they can get vehicles out to work on the fire. I’m sure they’re doing whatever is possible to keep the flames from spreading further.”


Caltrans is working on clearing hazard trees along Highway 41, officials said. Their work will continue for the next several days to ensure safety for travelers into Fish Camp and Yosemite National Park.


Highway 41 remains closed in both directions from south of Wawona to Cedar Valley Drive, north of Oakhurst. Yosemite visitors should use Highway 49 to Highway 140 or 120 for entrance to the park.
The Summerdale, Big Sandy, and Nelder Grove campgrounds on the Sierra National Forest are closed. Sky Ranch Road is closed at Buckskin, as are roads between Beasore Drive and Sky Ranch Road. 


The Madera County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation for Sky Ranch Road and Cedar Valley Sunday, and an advisory evacuation for north of Bissett Station Road between Highway 41 and Round House Road, due to the spot fire.


A Red Cross evacuation center has been set up at the Oakhurst Community Center, and at Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church. Small animals are being accepted at the Oakhurst Community Shelter, and Mariposa SPCA Building.


Large animals are being taken at the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds, similar to the Detwiler Fire in July. Tanner Tweed can be contacted there at 994-2794.


The number of structures destroyed grew to 14 in the Monday morning update.


Resources assigned to the fire include 14 hand crews, 5 helicopters, 88 engines, 12 dozers. Air tankers have been ordered and will support the fire as available.


It is projected that the fire will continue to spread east toward Big Sandy and downslope from Speckerman Mountain Peak. Southwest spread will continue toward Sugar Pine, and further spread potential into the Nelder Grove Historic Area. Crews were at work when the fire breached into the grove on Friday to protect historic cabins, wrapping them in foil among other defense efforts.


The public can text “RAILROADFIRE” (one word) to 888777 to receive regular updates in their area.


Erratic winds have proven a challenge throughout the duration of the Railroad Fire, officials said.

For more mountain news, visit the Sierra Star at www.sierrastar.com

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