MARIPOSA COUNTY — As the Detwiler Fire heads into its fifth day of creating chaos and destruction in Mariposa County, evacuees can only wait and wonder.
The fire has now charred 70,596 acres and has destroyed 50 single-family homes in its wake, damaging 11 others. 49 “minor” structures have been destroyed and 5 damaged. No commercial buildings have been lost. The fire is 10 percent contained.
While displaced residents are doing their best to be patient, it’s the not knowing that is hardest to deal with — not knowing whether they have a home to return to. And if they are so fortunate, how long will they have to manage in shelters or impose on the kindness of friends or family.
Within the evacuation zone, damage assessment crews are on scene inspecting and evaluating, and PG&E continues to remove damaged equipment and replace it. However, with the fire still burning in some areas, they have not been able to gain access to all the infrastructure in need of repair.
The town of Mariposa, along with Coulterville and other communities in the county have survived yet another day of threat. However dozens of structures have been lost, including the Little Church in the Hills, a non-denominational church that had stood on the site in Mt. Bullion for over 80 years.
The 10 percent containment area of the fireline is on the northwest corner where the fire started on Sunday. The completed line runs from Hunters Valley Mountain, south along the east side of Lake McClure to Bear Valley Road near the intersection with Mt. Gaines Road.
Most of the day’s fire activity happened on the north and south ends of the fire with lots of radio chatter about the Quartz Mountain area this afternoon.
This fire is especially challenging because access is difficult and crews often have to hike in, fighting dense brush and extreme heat as they pack many pounds of gear.
At about 1 p.m., reports came in about increased fire activity at Mt. Bullion and Highway 49 on Princeton Way. It was about this time that the smoke began dispersing enough to consider sending helicopters in to support crews in this area.
At about 2 p.m., air tankers were inbound to the fire. The inversion layer had held the smoke low over the fire area for a good part of the day, limiting the usage of air resources.
Several strike teams of dozers also joined the firefighting efforts this afternoon. As one was working to cut line, a rock strike from the blade ignited the tinder-dry vegetation, sparking a new fire that required air support to knock it down before it got away.
One of the dangers of firefighting that doesn’t get a lot of attention is poison oak. It’s everywhere. Today, a 30-year-old firefighter had to receive medical aid when he was exposed to poison oak and suffered an allergic reaction with hives to his throat and eyes. He hiked out to the road where he was met by medical personnel.
So as the firefight continues across the hills and in the canyons of Mariposa County, residents can only watch and wait — wait for word that crews have turned the corner on this monster and at last, they can go home.
For a link to the latest map of fire hot spots, click here.
To view the latest Cal Fire map, click here.