NORTH FORK – Things are beginning to wind down on the Willow Fire, and crews and equipment are being released and made available for other fires across the region.
The fire is now estimated at 5,702 acres, with 70 percent containment. Over 1,700 personnel are currently assigned to the incident, but that number will drop dramatically over the next few days.
Crews are still patrolling firelines and monitoring areas of heat and interior islands of unburned fuel, some of which flamed out today on their own. They are also doing mop-up, continuing rehab work and pulling miles of fire hose in off the lines.
California Conservation Corp members spent the day rolling and stacking all that hose for transport back to the warehouse.
Up near Sand Creek on the northern perimeter, there is also a bit of smoke where a section on top of 7-Rock is still smoldering. The terrain is too rugged for crews to directly access, but they are monitoring and improving existing firelines, and it is being watched from the air.
The rest of the burn area is very quiet, temperatures are slightly cooler and winds are fairly calm.
Bears, rattlesnakes and even a mountain lion have been intermittent companions for firefighters, and they have been jokingly warned at the briefings not to try and feed them.
Residents were allowed to return home in the Cascadel area last night as of 9 p.m. Central Camp was reopened this morning at 8 a.m., though anyone wishing to return will have to use Beasore Road, as the narrow road from the south end of Bass Lake is dangerous, with large fire apparatus still using it to travel to and from various sections of the fire.
The remaining evacuations, including Douglas Ranger Station Road and Willow Canyon, will be lifted at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
All previously evacuated areas will be open to residents only, who will need to show proof that they live there.
The Willow Fire started on Saturday, July 25, at about 2 p.m., just east of the south shore of Bass Lake, and about three miles north of North Fork, Calif. It was reportedly started by a juvenile playing with a lighter.
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, the California Conservation Corp, and the Mono Rancheria of Mono Indians.