MADERA COUNTY – Firefighters were kept busy this afternoon, battling two blazes on opposite sides of the county.
The River Fire started in Ahwahnee just after 2 p.m. in a garage behind a residence on Road 621.
It spread into surrounding vegetation, consuming over two-and-a-half acres before firefighters stopped the forward progress.
Two travel trailers were lost, plus the garage and a pump house. The family living in the residence was displaced due to electrical lines being burned and some moderate damage to the home, according to Cal Fire.
Road 621 was closed at Highway 49 to allow safe and clear access to the scene by fire equipment, but has since been reopened.
Seven Cal Fire engines, two Sierra National Forest engines, one water tender, one Madera County engine, one dozer and two crews from Mt. Bullion initially responsed to the incident. Air resources were also dispatched, but were called off as crews got a handle on the fire and retardant or water drops were not required.
Though several other nearby structures were threatened, none was lost and the fire was contained at 2.6 acres. No injuries were reported.
However, the family reportedly did not have insurance, and the Red Cross is assisting them with a place to stay.
Just as things were winding down at the River Fire, a report of a vegetation fire on Butterfield Stage Road in O’Neals came in just after 3 p.m.
Cal Fire Engine 4275 arrived within minutes, getting a hose lay around the perimeter and stopping the forward progress of the fire, which was burning in light grasses.
Roger Janssen, who lives on Butterfield Stage, was returning from a week out of town and planning dinner out with his wife, when he turned onto his road and saw smoke, flames and big red engines.
“Those guys were dragging those hoses up the hill, and got them around that fire in a hurry,” said Janssen, who has lived on the road for 20 years. “They did an awesome job.”
Janssen says in all his years on the property, they have never had a fire on this road, though last year’s Gold Fire was a bit too close for comfort, burning 274 acres just south of his place last April.
When Janssen pulled up to the mailboxes where the fire was burning, he says he could see neighbor Travis Balthezar, a former firefighter with the Forest Service, attacking the fire with a hand tool.
Meanwhile, one engine had just been sent to cover the Coarsegold Station and had no sooner parked the engine than the call came in, dispatching them to the Butterfield incident.
Additional engines responding were 4255, Engine 4361 from the Fresno/Kings Unit, and Madera County Fire Department Water Tender 17, manned by North Fork Volunteer Fire Department personnel.
Firefighters held this one at just .9 acres, and both the Butterfield Fire and the River Fire were called contained at 4:57 p.m.