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Helicopter dipping from Manzanita Lake on Mission Fire - photo by Michael Olwyler

Fire Officials Talk To North Fork Residents About Mission Fire

NORTH FORK — Residents anxious to hear how things on progressing on the Mission Fire in the Cascadel area gathered at the Mono Rancheria Community Center this evening to hear from fire officials.

The fire is now estimated at 1,035 acres with 15 percent containment.

There are currently 1,245 personnel assigned to the incident including 131 engines, 21 hand crews, 18 dozers, 12 water tenders and 10 helicopters.

There was good progress on the fire today, with little increase in acreage – just 10 since this morning’s estimate – and a huge decrease in smoke.

The biggest challenges are to the north and west in the heavy fuel loads. There were also a few spot fires outside the perimeter on the northwest, but crews are out on the lines 24/7, and move in quickly to handle those flare-ups.

Firefighters continue to work the hot spots in the interior of the burn area and do structure protection throughout Cascadel Woods and the Heights.

Four structures have been lost and four more damaged. The report from the damage assessment team should be completed by tomorrow morning

Falling modules (crews who cut down trees) are out in force, removing any possible hazard trees that could fall on homes or across roadways and power lines.

PG&E replaced five poles yesterday, and two more today, and are ready to flip the switch and turn the power back on anytime Cal Fire says it’s safe to do so. That will be some time tomorrow.

Of course the biggest issue for evacuees is “when do we get to go home?” But residents didn’t press the question, and were grateful to the firefighters and understanding of the situation.

They were also grateful to the Sheriff’s deputies who escorted them back into the burn area to retrieve important items after evacuating at – literally – a moment’s notice.

Many were trapped and forced to shelter in place in the middle of the meadow near the Clubhouse when the fire crossed Road 233 and blocked their escape until air resources could get retardant and water on the road.

Sheriff Jay Varney assured everyone that their homes are secure, with five deputies patrolling the area, and road blocks at Road 225 to keep people out.

The fire is being managed by Cal Fire Incident Management Team 3, who hosted tonight’s meeting in conjunction with Cal Fire MMU, the Sierra National Forest, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California, and cooperating agencies.

Team 3 assured everyone tonight that they are committed, without reservation, to getting their job done as quickly as possible so that people can go home, and do so in safety.

When asked what citizens could do to help Cal Fire carry out their jobs in the most efficient way, the answer was to evacuate when asked. That makes one less thing they have to worry about when trying to save your home so you can return safely.

Another point made was defensible space. People can download the Ready for Wildfire app and learn exactly what to do to ensure their home and property are ready for an event such as this.

For those concerned about neighbors refusing to create defensible space, talk to your Cal Fire Battalion Chief or call the Cal Fire Office in Mariposa at (209) 966-3622. Our Battalion Chief is Jeff McCarroll.

Residents can also make sure they have the proper size connection on their water tanks so that firefighters can quickly hook up and get to work saving their home. (Check with the County, these are required in many instances, depending on the year your home was built).

If you want to be notified just the minute evacuations are lifted, register for Nixle notifications about the Mission Fire by texting the word “missionfire” to 888777.

“There’s just one thing that travels faster than bad news,” said Public Information Officer Mike Smith, “and that’s repopulation news.”

It’s certain that if you are evacuated, you’ll want to know the minute it ends.

Closures and evacuations:

Road 225 has been reopened.

Cascadel Woods, Cascadel Heights and all of Road 233 remain under a mandatory evacuation, and Road 233 is closed.

Douglas Ranger Station Road is also closed and evacuated.

The Madera County Sheriff’s Office​ issued an evacuation advisory for Benedict Meadow. This includes road 7S07. Sheriff deputies are patrolling the area to notify any campers of the evacuation advisory.

An incident information line has been set up at 1-844-668-3473.

The Mission Fire started on Sunday, Sept. 3, just after 1 p.m.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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