NORTH FORK – Crews made good progress on the Willow Fire overnight, holding and strengthening existing lines and continuing burnout operations.
The fire is now estimated at 5,116 acres and is 50 percent contained.
Crews continued firing along the southeastern flank throughout the night, removing fuels that threaten the fireline protecting the Cascadel Woods area.
While the winds were mostly in their favor, firefighters did have to halt operations at times and wait for the winds to cooperate as they “patiently brought it down the hill,” successfully burning out about 1/2 mile of fireline. The smoke and flames may be alarming to residents and others watching, but planners say this is a deliberate process.
Some areas in this division have cooled down enough to bring in fallers who will take down snags that threaten crew safety, or remove others that have fallen across the road and are blocking access.
The Cascadel Woods area has been evacuated during firing operations, and crews continue their work of structure protection along all roads in the evacuated area. Law enforcement is also patrolling.
As the fire backs down the mountain toward Douglas Ranger Station Road, firefighters have cut in line around the homes below, and prepared them for structure defense.
Crews will be conducting firing operations in this area today, removing fuels that could threaten containment lines.
The western flank (Divisions A and B, see map below) is in patrol status and crews from that section of the fire will be moving to other areas with more fire activity.
Crews did burnout operations on the eastern perimeter a few days ago, and that section is now in mop-up.
On the north, firefighters constructed more line overnight and held onto what was done by the day shift. Firelines are mostly complete up in the Sand Creek area.
There is a slight chance of thunderstorms off to the east, but precipitation is unlikely. The forecast for the day is sunny and hot.
Air Attack was over the fire at 8 a.m. and will be orchestrating the operation of eight helicopters, five air tankers and one VLAT (Very Large Air Tanker).
Additional CHP officers will be patrolling Road 274 to help mitigate the traffic problems that have been seen in recent days.
There will be a Town Hall meeting at 2 p.m. today where fire officials will update the residents about the fire situation and answer questions.
There are currently 1,958 personnel assigned to the fire, with 142 engines, 43 hand crews, 20 dozers, 35 water tenders, 8 helicopters, 5 air tankers available on request, and 1 Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT).
Mandatory evacuations were ordered at 8 a.m. yesterday, July 30, for about 450 homes in the area of Cascadel Road (Road 233) and Douglas Ranger Station Road. Crews continue their structure protection work along both of those roads.
Cascadel Road is closed at Road 225, and Douglas Ranger Station Road is closed just past the entrance to the Incident Command Post. Gentle Way and Willow Canyon Drive also remain closed, along with Central Camp Road between Road 274 and Beasore.
No serious injuries have been reported, though there has been something resembling a flu bug affecting a few crew members, along with some heat exhaustion and minor burns.
No structures have been lost.
The American Red Cross of the Central Valley has opened a shelter to assist residents affected by the ongoing Willow Fire at the Oakhurst Community Center, 39800 Road 425B.
Red Cross volunteers will provide lodging, meals, hygiene kits and more for the evacuated families. The Central California Animal Disaster Team will be on scene to care for pets.
The Willow Fire started on Saturday, July 25, at about 2 p.m., and is burning just east of the south shore of Bass Lake, and about three miles north of North Fork, Calif. It was started by a juvenile playing with a lighter.
Cooperating agencies include Cal Fire, Madera County Fire, CHP, Madera County Sheriff’s Office, PG&E, the American Red Cross, California Office of Emergency Services, the California Conservation Corp, and the Mono Rancheria of Mono Indians.