Fire prompts evacuations, state of emergency in hills
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez Gabe Huck, right, a member of a San Benito Monterey Cal Fire crew, stands along state Highway 168 while fighting the Creek Fire, Sunday in Shaver Lake.
A fast-moving mountain wildfire between Shaver and Huntington Lakes has burned through approximately 80,000 acres of Sierra National Forest and private lands, as of Monday morning, according to Cal-Fire, and was listed at zero percent contained.
At least 5,000 structures are under threat from the fire, and about 20 injuries have been reported, some of them serious, according to officials.
Madera, Fresno and Mariposa counties remain under a State of Emergency Order declared by the State of California. Tinder dry conditions, heavy fuel loads in forests and temperatures near 110 degrees have created the perfect storm for massive and prolonged wildland fires, according to fire officials.
Approximately 1,000 firefighters, along with multiple ground and air units are fighting the fires.
The fire was first reported Friday night and took Labor Day vacationers and area residents by surprise. No cause has been determined.
Initial reports had roughly 1,000 people trapped near the Mammoth Pool Reservoir from area campgrounds when roads out became impassable due to flames. Campers drove to open areas at the lakeside and said they were shocked when they were advised to enter and take shelter in the lake if the towering walls of flames got too close.
Two large Chinook double-rotor helicopters from the California National Guard were dispatched and were able to evacuate about 215 of the trapped people, some of them with burns, broken bones, and other serious injuries, back to Fresno area hospitals. Others were later able to follow fire officials out in their vehicles on back roads in areas that the fires had already burned through.
Shaken evacuees described towering walls of 400-foot-tall flames burning in the forests and surrounding them on all sides. “I didn’t know if we were going to make it out,” one man told area news crews.
The fire has destroyed roughly 30 homes, or half structures in the picturesque small town of Big Creek, population 200, near the power generation station between the two mountains lakes.
Area winds were forecasted to change direction and increase in speeds to approximately 20 mph or stronger by Monday night and Tuesday, likely increasing the size of the fire and pushing it towards more inhabited areas.
Residents can follow breaking fire developments on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MaderaSheriff/
The following areas all remain under mandatory evacuation orders in Madera County:
A mandatory evacuation order means there is immediate threat to life, and is a lawful order to leave immediately. Any area under an evacuation order is then lawfully closed to public access.
• Cascadel Woods
• Kinsman Flat Subdivision
• Italian Bar Rd. from Road 225 to Reddinger Lake
• Mammoth Pool
• Whiskey Falls
• Clover Meadow
• Arnold Meadows
• All campgrounds off Minarets Road
• All campgrounds off Beasore Road north of Grizzley Road
• Mammoth Pool Trailer Park to Road 233
• Central Camp
• Road 225 east of Road 274 and all spur roads, such as Douglas Ranger Station Road, Cascadel Road, Peckinpah Road, Mission Road, Tu-Nobi Way, Rainbow Drive, Lark Lane, Boulder Creek Drive, Tera Tera Ranch Road, and Italian Bar Road, Road 235 between Road 222 and Italian Bar Road
Madera County area shelters:
Oakhurst Community Center, 39800 Road 425B, Oakhurst, CA Accepts small animals
Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds, 44777 Rodeo Grounds Lane, Coarsegold, CA Large animals
To help the victims of California wildfires, residents can donate to the American Red Cross, or the Central California Animal Disaster Team.