COARSEGOLD – On Saturday, firefighters spent the day battling vegetation fires in the Coarsegold and Yosemite Lakes Park (YLP) areas, this time in sweltering temperatures.
Today, it was a repeat performance, with the day starting with a fire on Road 425B, then resources moving back to the Coarsegold area for two more.
On Saturday, June 8, the first dispatch came at about 12:30 p.m., sending crews to Road 415, just west of Longo Road, to a fire burning right next to the road.
According to a witness who was helping her daughter-in-law with a yard sale, they first noticed a small spot burning in the grass, and then it just took off.
“It all happened so fast,” said Lori, who saw the fire from just across the road. “We just saw smoke and heard a crackling sound.”
Another person who had stopped along the road after seeing the flames, drove up to the house on the property where the fire was burning and got the resident out of the house, driving her to a neighbor’s place until the danger had passed.
Lori said that the homeowner’s son then began working the advancing edge of the fire with a garden hose until crews arrived, which was just minutes from the dispatch. “They were here really fast,” she said.
Cal Fire dozer #4245 cut a line around the head of the fire, and crews had it contained at about one acre by 1:30 p.m.
Madera County Fire Engines #8 and #10 responded, along with Water Tender #13 and Cal Fire Engines #4254, 4255, 4285, 4295.
About 90 minutes later, firefighters were again attacking a vegetation fire in the area, this one on Lilley Mountain Drive in YLP. Again, the fire was right next to the road, burning in dry grass.
Nearby residents grabbed hand tools, and began cutting a line around the blaze, until Engine #10, Cal Fire Engines #4264, 4285 and 4295 and Water Tender #13 arrived on scene.
Crews worked in the 100+ degree temperature to get the fire contained at about one acre.
There was also a small spot fire, about a mile-and-a-half away on Corral Drive, that was seen and suppressed by an engine driving by. That blaze was contained to an area about a dozen feet in diameter.
Then, on Sunday morning, June 9, the day began with a fire on Road 425B above Stillmeadow Drive, burning about 150 feet along the roadway. The road was closed in both directions until about 2:30 p.m.
Before crews could even get this one under control, another dispatch went out for a fire on Road 400, just north of Yosemite Springs Parkway.
Greg Forsyth, Operations Officer and first on the scene of the fire on Road 400, called it at about 3-5 acres initially.
The fire was burning up a steep hill in dry grass and brush on the east side of the road, and once again it appeared to have started right next to the road.
Helicopter H-551 ferried water from a pond on the west side of the road and attacked the head of the fire. Two retardant planes also dropped and headed back to base.
There were two homes on the hillside, plus one barn and various farm equipment, but the fire was stopped before doing any damage to those structures.
At the time we spoke to Forsyth at the scene, he estimated the blaze at between 30 and 40 acres when it was contained at about 1 p.m.
But there was no rest for firefighters. A third smoke was spotted just off Highway 41 on Meadow Ridge Road, and crews were sent to handle a fire next to the bridge about 1/4 mile off the highway.
This fire was burning is steep rocky terrain on the north side of the road, which was closed in both directions as engines rolled in to attack yet another suspicious blaze.
This is the 10th fire in the YLP/Coarsegold area since May 11. Investigators say the causes can only be classified as “of undetermined origin.”
While Cal Fire is still investigation these fires, residents need to be aware and vigilant. These incidents not only deplete resources and threaten homes, but put fire crews in danger.
A May 2013 Cal Fire news release on Arson Awareness Week had this to say:
“Whether it is a wildland fire or a house fire, investigators need your help. The public is encouraged to call the CAL FIRE Arson Hotline, 1-800-468-4408, if suspicious activity is observed. Details, such as a description of suspicious people and vehicles are very helpful to investigators.
“Rewards of up to $10,000 are available for information leading to an arrest and conviction of persons responsible for committing the crime of arson within State jurisdiction.”
As to the fire conditions the area is facing in the months ahead, Cal Fire Deputy Chief Kevin Smith says records this year have been broken for lack of moisture.
“We are at 50-65% of normal, and most of the moisture we received came before January 1,” said Smith at a Town Hall meeting in YLP on May 30. “We’re about two months ahead of where we should be. Conditions are where we would normally expect them on August 1.”
Residents are encouraged to use extreme caution with anything that could cause ignition, and to follow Cal Fire guidelines regarding use of mowers and power tools.