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Detwiler Fire - photo by Brooklyn Dahlberg

Evacuations Expand As Detwiler Fire Grows, Resources Stretched Thin

MARIPOSA COUNTY — Firefighters and officials on the Detwiler Fire faced dense smoke, intense heat, windy conditions and limited resources as they fought to stop the forward progress of this fire, and hold it within containment lines.

The Detwiler Fire, burning near Lake McClure in Mariposa County, is now estimated at 11,000 acres with no report of containment.

The fire was reported just before 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon, forcing people from their homes and closing roads in the Hunters Valley area. The fire grew to thousands of acres in just a matter of hours.

Highway 49 is closed at Highway 132 in Coulterville on the north. The community of Bear Valley is now being evacuated and the road closure on the south will move about a mile farther to the south of Pendola Gardens. Residents are being directed to leave south toward Mariposa.

Highway 49 from Pendola Gardens to Mt. Ophir Road is also being evacuated, along with Pendola Gardens as far as Old Toll. (see list below for the most recent closures and evacuations. We will update as new information comes in from the Sheriff and Cal Fire. Conditions are changing by the minute.)

Readers are reporting ash from the fire as far as 100 miles away, and smoke is causing health concerns. Some Mariposa residents describe ash “falling like snow.”

Gusting winds pushed the fire to the northeast this afternoon, and a shortage of resources is hampering suppression efforts.

Air tankers and helicopters had to work their way through heavy smoke as they worked to cool down the leading edge of the fire and keep it from breaking through established lines along the flanks.

Just after noon, a 50 – 60 acre fire was reported to have started outside the lines of Division J on the eastern flank (see map below).

At about the same time, two air tankers were diverted to new starts on the Tuolumne/Calaveras and Fresno/Kings Units.

Just after 3 p.m., the fire jumped the secondary line on the south end of the fire, and dozers were moved to get a new line constructed as quickly as possible.

At 3:30 p.m., the fire was reported to be threatening structures at Hunters Valley Access and Bear Valley road, and there were not enough engines for structure protection. Fire officials asked for three more Strike Teams (each team has five engines) of Type 3 engines, but with those resources basically depleted, engines from other agencies that were covering unmanned stations were called up.

At 4:15 p.m., reports came in of a 200 acre slop-over of Highway 49, with the fire running up Mt. Bullion Ridge, and no resources on that part of the fire. Evacuation orders have been issued for the Mt. Bullion Ridge Road to CYA Camp Road.

Mt. Bullion is the base for five ground crews and a helicopter operation. One crew will be moving to the top of the ridge to protect the repeater site located there.

At least one repeater was installed on another mountain this morning to assist with radio communications, always a challenge in this area.

Evacuations as of this morning include all homes on:

  • Detwiler Road
  • Hunters Valley Road
  • Hunters Valley Access Road
  • Bear Valley Road from Hunters Valley Access Road to Highway 49
  • Bear Valley Road from Cotton Creek to Highway 49
  • Bear Valley Road from Cotton Creek to Exchequer Rd (north side only)
  • Highway 49 from Pendola Gardens to Fremont Fork (Monument at the top of the Bagby Grade)
  • Cotton Creek Road

Road closures include:

  • Hunters Valley Road at Bear Valley Road
  • Hunters Valley Access Road at Bear Valley Road
  • Bear Valley Road at Hunters Valley Road
  • Bear Valley Road at Hunters Valley Access Road
  • Cotton Creek Road at Bear Valley Road
  • Highway 49 at Pendola Gardens
  • Highway 49 at Fremont Fort
  • Bear Valley Road at Exchequer Road
  • Mt. Gains at No. 9 Road

The Sheriff’s Office asks everyone to please stay out of the area. Lots of people out there trying to take photos but fire can be a very fast-moving, changing situation, and it is very important to keep the roads clear for emergency traffic.

One structure has been damaged, and one has been destroyed.

By 7 p.m. yesterday the fire had become established on the south side of Hunters Valley Road, and on the east side of Hunters Valley Access Road.

The Red Cross Shelter and Small Animal Shelter has been moved from the McCay Hall in Catheys Valley, to the Mariposa Elementary School at 5044 Jones Street in Mariposa.

Volunteers are providing lodging, meals, water, health services and comfort for evacuated residents while they wait for emergency information.

Central CA Animal Disaster Team has been deployed to set up a small animal shelter at this location. For animal evacuation, residents need to call the Mariposa Sheriff’s Office at 209-966-3614.

The Red Cross urges everyone to follow evacuation orders from local law enforcement and have an emergency kit ready go for any disaster including wildfires. Visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/wildfire to learn more.

For detailed maps of the fire area, click here.

We will update here as more information comes in.

Detwiler Fire – image produced by Joseph Elfelt on mappingsupport.com

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