COARSEGOLD – The all too familiar sound of sirens and helicopters filled the air again on Sunday, June 23, as yet another fire burned in the Yosemite Lakes Park area.
At about 3:30 p.m., engines were dispatched to Road 400, across from Rivergold School, for a fire burning on the south side of the road.
The main focus for Cal Fire was to get equipment in place to defend the nearly 20 homes that were in the path of the flames.
“We are concentrating on directing the fire around the structures, and then continue to work on control of the fire,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief and Incident Commander Chris Christopherson.
Cal Fire spared no resources in hitting this fire fast and hard. Christopherson called for additional engines and crews after assessing the situation.
“We have such extreme fire danger in the area, and with high temperatures and low humidity, and the conditions that we’re experiencing, we have had resources from outside the area in here helping.”
Many of the engines that responded were not those residents have grown accustomed to seeing in the area. There were also Department of Corrections crews from Pilot Rock near Crestline in Southern California.
The fire began along Road 400 just south of Yosemite Springs Parkway, and quickly spread up Lilley Mountain. It was burning along several hundred feet of the roadway, starting spot fires that the first engines on scene began tackling.
Crews worked to get hose lays in place and got busy with hand tools while the fire torched trees and began running up the hill in dry grass and brush.
About 20 homes were in danger along Starlight Drive, Starlight Way and Lilley Mountain Drive. As engines arrived at the scene, they were sent out along those roads to stage in driveways and position themselves to protect the homes there.
Air tankers then laid down retardant along the leading edge of the fire and two helicopters, Cal Fire 404 and 902, hooked up water bladders and began dousing the flames.
Residents lined the roads, as they have done so many times in the past few months, watching anxiously as firefighters worked the lines and helicopters ferried water from a pond on the north side of Road 400.
Nancy, who lives at the end of Starlight Court and was watching the fire from her back yard, said she is moving to Clovis and her house is in the process of being sold.
“I just hope I can finish selling it before it burns up,” she said. “This is the 6th fire I’ve been able to see from my house this summer.”
Road 400 was closed between Rivergold School and Yosemite Springs Parkway, and Starlight Drive was closed, along with the northern end of Lilley Mountain Way.
CHP, Madera County Sheriff’s deputies, Citizens On Patrol and YLP Security set up at intersections in the area to direct traffic around the suppression operations.
At one point, a woman who had stopped along the road, got out with a shovel and started working away at the burned area, something Cal Fire does not encourage citizens to do.
By about 4:30 p.m., firefighters had stopped the forward progress of the fire at about 15 acres, and homeowners at the edge of YLP could breathe just a little easier. At least for the moment. With over 40 fires in the YLP/Coarsegold area since April, no one is letting down their guard.
Cal Fire investigators were on the scene and working to determine the cause of this latest incident. It was their third fire of the day, starting with a small spot off Highway 41 in the morning, and another on Deadwood just south of Oakhurst that burned about 1/8 acre in thick brush on a steep hillside.
The fire on Deadwood, about a mile south of town, caused traffic control to be put in place, reducing the busy Sunday travel to alternating one lane for about an hour.