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Firefighters Get A Handle On Church Fire In Oakhurst

OAKHURST — A fire behind a local church caused resources to be diverted from the Ben Fire, burning not far away in Mariposa County.

Punishing drops from the air helped crews on the ground get a handle on the situation in short order.

Just after 1:30 p.m. today firefighters were called to respond to reports of a fire burning behind Sierra Pines Church in the Oakhurst/Ahwahnee area, off of Highway 49 near Vista del Rio.

First engine on scene reported the fire at five acres with a moderate rate of spread. Structures out in front were threatened, and power lines posed a hazard, while the fire burned in grass, oak and woodland.

With resources stretched thin due to the Ben Fire in Mariposa, some were diverted from that fire, including engines, Air Attack, air tankers and helicopters. Heavy water bombardment by the Sky Crane helicopter knocked down the leading edge of the fire, allowing ground crews to quickly get a line around the perimeter.

At 2:42 p.m. the forward progress had been stopped and the fire was declared contained at 5.1 acres. The Incident Commander anticipates three to four hours for complete control and mop-up.

Some resources are being released to return to the Ben Fire, and others are being made available to respond from the scene.

Cal Fire, Madera County Fire, and Sierra National Forest including Crane Valley Hotshots all assisted in suppression efforts.

People were cleared out of Sierra Pines Church, including the few staff who were on the grounds at the time the fire broke out. Deputies from the Madera County Sheriff’s Office went door to door early on to warn residents of the fire, however, no evacuations were ordered.

Covey Court was closed with no estimated time for reopening, while Highway 49 remains open. Please drive slowly and watch for emergency vehicles.

A witness at scene reported that someone had been mowing, and believed that may have started the fire. However, that has not been confirmed.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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