NORTH FORK – Crews on the Willow Fire put in a good, hard shift today, though fire officials have not updated the estimated acreage or percent of containment at this time. A mapping flight over the fire tonight will provide new data for an update after the morning briefing tomorrow. The current estimate stands at 1,521 acres with 5 percent containment.
There are currently 1,215 personnel assigned to the incident from all over the state, and as far away as New Mexico.
The fire is in steep and rugged terrain, requiring hand crews hiking in and being supported by helicopters and air tankers. Crews will begin mop up where safe to do so.
The western portion of the fire near Brown’s Ditch showed some activity today, especially in the late afternoon as temperatures rose and up-slope winds created active fire behavior, putting up huge plumes of smoke.
Last night’s inversion kept aircraft from hitting the fire early, but once up, Air Cranes, Type II helicopters, air tankers and a VLAT continued laying down water and retardant along the flanks of the fire. Three air tankers were called up by Air Attack as late as 7 p.m. this evening.
Spot fires with torching trees could be seen to the south of a heavy retardant line on Division Z this afternoon, as the fire continues to try and push south around the South Fork Bluffs and along the face of Peckinpah Mountain.
In the Brown’s Creek area on the northeast section, dozers and strike teams did mop-up and worked on spot fires up to the 7S94 Road. The top of the mountain appears to be the “coolest” spot of the fire.
The southern perimeter is extremely steep, and crews will focus on securing that line over the next 24 hours. There were many portions of this division where firefighters couldn’t engage today because of safety concerns.
Temperatures will continue to rise over the next few days, causing even lower humidity recovery overnight. Fire officials anticipate this will result in active fire behavior throughout the night.
Safety Officers continue to stress to crews that they need to stay hydrated, citing a third episode occurring today where hydration has been an issue. As temperatures rise, this will become critical.
Road 274 reopened today at noon, though all other closures and evacuations remain in place.
Whiskers Camp, Gaggs Camp, Whiskey Falls and Central Camp have been evacuated.
Douglas Ranger Station Road is closed at Trails End, and residents of Wild Rose and Bear Clover, along with Cascadel Woods have been notified that they need to be prepared to leave, but they are not under an evacuation order at this time.
Autumn Ridge Way (Whiskey Falls Road/Forest Road 8S09) is closed at Cascadel Woods, and the campgrounds above it have been evacuated.
About 450 structures are threatened, though none have been lost.
The Willow Fire was reported on Saturday, July 25, at about 2 p.m. The cause remains under investigation.
Cooperating agencies include Cal Fire, Madera County Fire, CHP, Madera County Sheriff’s Office, PG&E, the American Red Cross, California Office of Emergency Services, and the Mono Rancheria of Mono Indians.