OAKHURST – A series of small fires on Highway 41 just north of Road 425B at the top of Deadwood, temporarily closed the highway in both directions this evening.
The incident, dubbed the Bug Fire, was reported just before 7 p.m., and began simply enough when a Madera man and his family were enjoying the day at Bass Lake.
According to the driver, when the family went to leave the lake, his wife noticed a red towel lying on the ground in front of their parking spot. They drove over the towel as they pulled out of the space.
As they were headed southbound up Deadwood, about two miles outside of Oakhurst, the wife noticed smoke coming from their car, and they thought they had a mechanical problem with their Volkswagon Beetle. The driver looked out the rear view mirror and saw what was reportedly chunks of the rag shooting out from under the car.
It seems as though the red towel they drove over had become stuck to the car’s undercarriage and as the vehicle’s exhaust heated up as they drove, the towel caught fire. As their car was exuding smoke, other cars were driving by and honking at them, which made the driver realize it was time to stop.
He pulled to the side of the road, exited the vehicle, and reportedly stomped out the burning material. Thinking the car was on fire, the man opened the car trunk and started pulling their belongings out of the vehicle.
The incident sparked four separate fires. The smallest was a 2×2′ spot. In addition there is a 5×10′ spot, and another is one-quarter acre. The largest fire is estimated at approximately two acres.
Forward progress has been stopped. Crews are re-enforcing fire lines and working on hot spots. The two air tankers that were dispatched have been called off without dropping, and any additional resources not at scene are returning to quarters.
Responding engines include Cal Fire Engine 4254, 4294, 4285, 4275, 4264, 4295, and 4262, along with Madera County Fire Engines 12 and 212, Water Tender 16, two crews from Mt. Bullion, Battalion Chiefs 4214 and 4215, CHP and the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.
As of 10 p.m., Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson reports that the fire is contained and controlled.
UPDATE: CHP reports that the roadway is open and all equipment is being released as of 10:25 p.m.
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