NORTH FORK – Firing operations along control lines continued throughout the day on the Willow Fire, as crews worked to burn out fuels inside the southeastern perimeter.
At this writing, there has been no updated size since the last estimate of 4,394 acres, but the fire is now reported at 40 percent containment.
Heavy smoke took a while to lift today, but air resources were over the fire as soon as it was safe for air operations.
Firefighters had to time their burnout operations with the whim of the winds today, but had good success throughout the day.
The fire backed down the face of Peckinpah Mountain all afternoon, and people lined Road 274 to watch the torching trees and the air show. Law enforcement was called out to deal with cars blocking roads and driveways, and two engine crews reportedly stopped to help a woman who had gotten her car high-centered on a curb when she pulled over where she shouldn’t have.
Motorists are reminded that fire equipment, and the occasional ambulance, need clear, safe access, and no one should be pulling over into the dry grass, trespassing onto private property, blocking gates, or stopping in the road to snap a photo.
Meanwhile, back on the firelines, crews patrolled along the western perimeter and mopped up 200 feet inside the line, on what was a pretty quiet division.
On the northern end at Sand Creek, firefighters made “one heck of a push” late in the day to tie in and reinforce some sketchy line, and planners feel good about the situation there. Not much smoke was visible from that location late in the day.
On the southeast corner of the fire, crews continue firing operations along the line northwest of Cascadel Woods, and hope to complete this section by 7 a.m. tomorrow.
A third repeater was installed at Benedict Meadow yesterday, providing clear communications for all areas of the fire.
There was more moisture in the air today and higher humidities, though temperatures are expected to remain very warm throughout the night. The few brief showers during yesterday’s night shift did nothing to lessen the dangerous conditions and bone dry vegetation.
A mother mountain lion and two cubs were reported in and around the fire area, adding a bit of interest to the job.
There are currently 1,958 personnel assigned to the fire, with 142 engines, 43 hand crews, 20 dozers, 35 water tenders, 9 helicopters, 4 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.