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Cause of fire remains under investigation

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Firefighters work to extinguish a grass fire that shut down State Route 145 east of Tozer Street on Tuesday afternoon.


Heavy smoke from a 10-acre wind-driven grass fire closed busy State Route 145 just north of Tozer Street for about 30 minutes and threatened one structure according to CalFire authorities.

Battalion Chief Mike Surber said the cause of the Aug. 8 fire was undetermined “but the fire started riverside on the east side of the riverbed, just past the junk yard area that had just previously burned.

“There was a lot of foot traffic (footprints) in the area and in the field, but we were unable to determine a cause.” he said.

No power lines or other typical sources of ignition, such as mowing or trimming, were found in or near the area of the burned riverside.

The north Madera area near Raymond Road of the river is well known for its large encampment of homeless people living on the riverbanks, and squatting in the buffer area behind SR 145 and Tozer Street businesses and homes.

Surber said the brisk wind contributed to the spread of the fire.

“It could have easily gone to 30 acres. It ran pretty quick in the dry grass and flanking, threatened a house. That was our main effort, protecting the structure, then we went after it in the field.”

The plume of gray-brown smoke was visible from all over the city.

The grass fire prompted a significant response, Surber said, with most or all Madera city and county fire engines fighting the grass fire.

North county engines #1, #3 and Madera Ranchos engine #19, and both City of Madera engines # 6 and #7 responded to the fire. Water tender #19 and an out-of-area water tender continuously supplied the five fire engines with water.

Crews fought the grass fire in 100-degree heat and mopped up hot spots for about five hours before extinguishing it. Three paid call fire volunteers also helped fight the fire, according to Surber.

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