Highway 168 from Auberry to Shaver Lake has now been re-opened to two-way traffic. The highway had been closed due to the “Lanes Fire,” which started at about 12:30pm on Saturday by what investigators believe was a cigarette being thrown out the window of a car. The fire is burning just south-east of Auberry about 2 miles up the 4-lanes from the Highway 168 & Lodge Road junction.
There are only two lanes open on Highway 168, one in each direction. CalTrans has set out cones for lane control, and the California Highway Patrol is monitoring traffic on the road. Auberry Road is also open with unrestricted access at this time.
The Lanes Fire is burning in steep rocky terrain just above Highway 168 in the vicinity of the Beal Fire Road. Both the near-record heat and the rugged mountainside have posed tough challenges for crews on the ground.
The fire has burned about 138 acres so far, and is 30% contained. Evacuations are in place on Beal Fire Road, which remains closed, with warnings issued to the Meadow Lakes area to be prepared to evacuate.
Emergency personnel from Cal Fire, the California Highway Patrol, the Forest Service, Fresno County, Reedly and the Office of Emergency Services are on-scene. There are currently 523 personnel on the fire, with 21 engines, 9 fire crews, 2 helicopters, 4 air tankers, 3 dozers and11 water tenders working the fire, which is burning rapidly in the steep, dry terrain.
John Dominguez of the Fresno Command Center has confirmed that 6 fire fighters have been treated or transported due to heat exhaustion.
“The cause of the fire has been determined to be discarded smoking material,” says Dominguez. So it appears that someone tossed a cigarette out the window.
No persons of interest have been identified in connection with the ignition of the fire. However this action is a misdameanor, and anyone convicted can be charged the cost of the fire suppression.
Power has also been restored to some 1,300 homes in the area. PG&E had cut power to those homes at the request of Cal Fire as a safety precaution during the initial assessment and suppression efforts, but it was restored after only a few hours.
We will have updates as they come in, so check back for further information.