OAKHURST – Cal Fire officials were met with cheers and applause this morning at the Oakhurst Community Center as residents from the Bass Lake Heights area learned that they will be allowed to return to their homes later today.
Barring any unforeseen flareups in the burn area, or dangerous issues discovered by PG&E, officials hope to allow reentry about 6 p.m.
Residents are cautioned to await official word before heading for the road blocks. Those notifications will be sent out in MCALerts and will be posted here as soon as information is made public.
Starting at 2 p.m. today, those who live in the evacuated area are required to go to the Oakhurst Sheriff’s Substation at 48267 Liberty Drive behind True Value Hardware, and show proof of residency in order to obtain a pass that will get them through the road blocks. For those whose identification was left in their homes, or they are absentee owners, Sheriff’s Office personnel will work things out on a case-by-case basis.
Receiving your pass does not mean you can go straight up to the area, you must wait for the official notification. The Substation will be open throughout the night to accommodate everyone who needs a pass.
The area will still be closed to the public for at least 24-36 hours after residents are allowed in. Officials hope reopen Road 426 to through traffic within the next two days.
Crews from PG&E, Sierra Tel, various propane companies and numerous contractors are in the burn area, working hard to remove hazard trees, repair melted lines and junction boxes and get power and water restored as quickly as possible.
Residents with generators are cautioned to disconnect them from any power grids, and only use them by running an extension cord directly to any appliance you wish to run.
People walking through burned rubble are cautioned to wear heavy boots. There may be hot spots that are not visible, or nails protruding from boards, and officials want to make sure that any opportunity for injury is mitigated by using good judgement.
Electricians and others are working hard to assess the water situation. The Water District has received an okay from the State Water Resources Board to bring in water, and they must get the power back first to power the Cedar Tank Farms and Well #2.
Pink retardant covers a good deal of the area, and fire officials say that the substance is not toxic, but it will reconstitute once it gets wet. Fire engine crews will not be able to wash retardant off your car or driveway. The retardant will do damage to paint, but washing it off will interfere with your ability to get help with repairs from your insurance company, say officials.
When washing the retardant off driveways, it will become extremely slippery as it gets wet, so everyone is cautioned to wash it off completely and be cautious when walking on it. The substance is fertilizer-based and will not harm pets or people. It is colored red so that aircraft can see where it landed.
Fire engines will be stationed throughout the neighborhood and will be available to assist if residents note any hot spots or hazard trees. (please don’t ask them to hose off your driveway!)
Propane tanks that were damaged or destroyed have likely been removed by the companies that own them. Make sure you have your tank pressure tested before you attempt to put it back in service!
Tomorrow, starting at 10 a.m., the Red Cross will host a Resources Fair at the Oakhurst Community Center to provide residents with everything they need to move forward. There will be tax assessors, county resources, supplies for cleanup, assistance replacing things such as wheelchairs, medications, etc.
They are also working with local churches to provide manpower to help move debris, cut trees and haul away refuse.
True Value Hardware will be providing rakes, shovels, gloves and other tools, and H&L Lumber is working on sifting boxes for those who need them.
The Central California Animal Disaster Team is at the Community Center to provide a place for pets to stay while you work on your property. They have cages, food dishes, leashes and other supplies available.
Road 426 is still closed between Summit Drive and Road 223. Road 222 along Bass Lake is open, and access to Road 223 can be made from the Forks Resort.
Everyone is still cautioned to be mindful of crews and fire equipment traveling to and from the firelines.
The Courtney Fire is now 60% contained and mopup continues throughout the burn area.
We will update the minute we have new official information.