MARIPOSA COUNTY — As dawn broke Tuesday, the news was guardedly optimistic for nearly 1,000 firefighters battling the so-called Briceburg Fire.
The blaze, which started as a 50-acre brush fire, has now increased to 800 acres, according to Cal Fire, with 10 percent containment as of 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The fire grew overnight from 550 acres to 800 acres, in part, because Cal Fire hand crews reportedly worked throughout the night setting back fires to contain the blaze.
A total of 35 hand crews, six air tankers, three helicopters, 54 engines and 14 bulldozers were attacking the fire Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, high winds predicted for Wednesday have PG&E warning it could have to do a “public safety power shutoff” as part of its new plan to prevent fallen power lines from sparking wildfires.
Cal Fire’s Tuesday morning “condition” report read: “Areas that are currently under a mandatory evacuation include addresses on Highway 140 between Octagon Road and Buffalo Gulch, Bug Hostel, all of Buffalo Gulch Road and Briceburg Campground.”
“This is NOT an Evacuation Order,” the report cautions. “This is an advisement only of a potential Evacuation Order should conditions change.”
Included in that advisement: Colorado Road from Highway 140 to Davis Road; all of Davis Road; Highway 140 from Colorado Road to Midpines Market, Ponderosa Way including all side roads; Deer Park, Leichtlin Lane, Feliciana Mountain Road Rancheria Creek Road and Rumley Mine.
Road Highway 140 is closed from Colorado Road to Savages Trading Post, Cal Fire also reported.
Tuesday morning, the fire was burning within a rough perimeter contained by Bear Creek and the Merced River. The fire has been moving steadily southeast towards Ponderosa Road and Buffalo Gulch, with steep, isolated terrain making it difficult for firefighters to access the blaze and cut fire lines.
County officials late Monday also opened a Red Cross evacuation center at the New Life Christian Church in Bootjack. On Tuesday morning, officials at the shelter said only one person had come in so far, a tourist who’d become separated from the rest of their group.
Katrina Poitras, disaster program manager for the American Red Cross, said Tuesday just after 9 a.m. that the shelter “was being rolled back to being an evacuation center.”
“At noon, we’ll go back on stand-by” status, Poitras added. “Anyone needing shelter should call the MMU Fire Hotline at 844-668-3473.”
On Tuesday, more than 900 firefighters from agencies across the state were attacking the fire, which is burning near the area where the Ferguson Fire scorched a total of 96,000 acres in 2018. On Monday, bulldozer crews were reworking one of the southwest fire lines from the Ferguson Fire.
Updated Tuesday 9:40 a.m.
*This story will be updated throughout the day Tuesday.