O’NEALS — An estimated 39 acres were burned and several structures lost when what started as a vegetation fire closed Road 211 in the O’Neals area this afternoon.
Just before 3 p.m., Vanessa Sammons was checking on her cows at an address between Hildreth Road and Sierra Oaks Lane when she saw a fire burning near the house on the property.
After calling it in to 911, she notified others in the area, and those with livestock in harms way began rounding them up, as engines and aircraft responded.
Resources were called in from Madera County Fire, Cal Fire and Fresno County Fire, including air tankers and helicopters, water tenders, dozers and ground crews out of Mt. Bullion.
First engines at scene found the fire burning on the west side of Road 211 in dry grass and brush, being buffeted by gusting winds that threatened to send it across the road.
Air tankers dropping retardant along the southern flank of the fire had to be wary of powerlines, and a few motorists who were stopped by sheriff’s deputies at the front of the line had their cars doused with retardant.
Road 211 was closed down at Road 200 and just south of the fire at about 3:40 p.m. to allow all emergency equipment clear and safe access to the roadway. That compounded problems for those using Road 211 as a detour in order to avoid the construction work going on along Highway 41 north of the 22 Mile House.
Engines staged along Road 211 and crews stopped the fire from crossing the road, though it burned right up to the fence line in some areas.
At about 3:45 p.m., the Incident Commander confirmed the loss of one home and several outbuildings.
By 4:30, the I.C. began releasing resources, including air tankers, and reported that the fire was 60 percent contained. Ground crews from Mt. Bullion began arriving to do mop-up.
At 5:04 p.m. the fire was 100 percent contained, with an estimated six hours for control.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.