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Kings River Hotshot on Railroad Fire - photo by Gina Clugston

Lack Of Resources Continues To Hamper Efforts On Railroad Fire

FISH CAMP — Mountain area residents awoke today to the glow of the Railroad Fire up on the mountain, cars dusted with ash, and a deep orange sunrise.

The new estimate on the Railroad Fire after last night’s flyover is now 2,971 acres with zero percent containment.

There are currently 437 personnel assigned to the incident including 35 engines, 10 crews, 4 helicopters, 6 dozers and 12 water tenders. More resources have been requested.

Seven structures have been destroyed and over one hundred more are threatened.

There was a bit of slop-over on the southwest perimeter last night along the 4S04 road, and crews had to back off to Miami Mountain and look at new options to strengthen that line.

The area to the west of Fish Camp looked good overnight, with just a couple spot fires on the north side, which were handled. Crews continue to do structure protection in that area.

The northeast portion of the fire is where most of the activity has been concentrated over the last day. Dozer line is being constructed to tie in to the 5S43 road, and spot fires have been pushing the perimeter farther to the east.

The fire is expected to continue to spread east toward Big Sandy and southeast toward Sugar Pine and Speckerman Mountain Peak.

Crews continue to strengthen the lines to the south and east of the Yosemite Mt. Sugar Pine Railroad.

Temperatures are expected to reach nearly 105 degrees at the Incident Command Post in Ahwahnee today, with only slight relief in the higher elevations. Humidity will be dangerously low, dropping into the teens by afternoon.

Yesterday’s unstable atmosphere continued to contribute to large vertical plume development in the afternoon. Temperatures will continue to be above normal with low relative humidity levels dominating the area. Extreme heat is expected to stay in the area through the weekend.

Tree mortality is creating an increased safety risk for personnel engaged on this fire. Crews are reporting tree failures occurring at high rates after being weakened by the fire’s passage.

There is a need for mechanical equipment for felling and moving large quantities of dead trees to minimize exposure to hand fallers and crews.

The continuing theme of this fire is the difficulty in getting more resources on the lines and aircraft overhead.

“The fire is getting bigger, but the crowd isn’t,” was the way someone put it at this morning’s briefing.

Yesterday, the Super Tanker 747 made two drops over the fire. Today, a request has been made for two VLATs, four Type 1s and four Type 2 air tankers. It isn’t known if those resources will be available.

Helicopters are operating out of Batterson north of Oakhurst, and out of Mariposa.

PG&E will be going into the fire area, wherever it is safe to do so, to begin repairs and snag removal along their lines, and get poles replanted, so as to be ready to bring everyone back online when the area is re-populated. Sierra Tel will also be working to repair infrastructure as needed, and Caltrans will be removing hazard trees along Highway 41.

Though the active fire may have moved out of some residential areas, the threat is still very real. Trees weakened by fire and years of drought are an ever-present danger to firefighters and contractors as the suppression work continues, and also pose a threat to any residents returning home, and to motorists on the roadways.

Highway 41 will remain closed at least through the weekend. There is no estimated date to reopen. There is also no indication of when residents may be allowed to return home.

New road closures were announced at 10:25 a.m. today due to fire activity:

  • Road 630 at Buckskin Lane
  • Forest Road 6S13 at Road 274
  • Forest Road 6S40 at Beasore Road
  • Forest Road 6S40X at Beasore Road
  • Forest Road 6S08 at 6S36
  • Forest Road 5S39 at 5S90
  • Forest Road 5S40Y at Beasore Road.

The Red Cross Evacuation Center at the Oakhurst Community Center has been closed down due to lack of need. However, they are on standby and prepared to get back up and running again within two hours.

“Just because we’re closed doesn’t mean we’ve left,” says Disaster Program Manager Katrina Poitras. “You can still call, and we will provide assistance, or connect you with other resources who can help you.”

The hot line number for the Red Cross is 559-343-2549.

A fire information line has been established for the Railroad Fire at 559-373-0040.

Closures and evacuations on the Railroad Fire:

At 2:40 p.m. yesterday, a mandatory evacuation order was issued for Big Sandy Campground. The area of Sky Ranch is under an evacuation advisory at this time.

Sheriff’s deputies also advised anyone at Soquel and Texas Flat campgrounds to be aware of the danger and be ready to evacuate if necessary.

The road closure on Highway 41 northbound is at Cedar Valley about three miles north of Oakhurst. The road is closed to southbound traffic inside Yosemite National Park at Wawona.

Road closures include Highway 41 and all offshoots between Cedar Valley Road and Summerdale Campground in both Madera County and Mariposa County, and Road 630 (Sugar Pine Road) and all cross streets, including Sugar Pine Christian Camps. Jackson Road is closed to Fresno Dome.

A mandatory evacuation is in place for the the community of Fish Camp, the Tenaya Lodge, the Narrow Gauge Inn, the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, the community of Sugar Pine including the Christian camp, and all homes and businesses in the immediate vicinity. Evacuations run north from Fish Camp to the Summerdale Campground.

Also closed are these Forest roads:

  • Road 630 at Buckskin Lane
  • Forest Road 6S13 at Road 274
  • Forest Road 6S40 at Beasore Road
  • Forest Road 6S40X at Beasore Road
  • Forest Road 6S08 at 6S36
  • Forest Road 5S39 at 5S90
  • Forest Road 5S40Y at Beasore Road.

The community of Wawona is also being warned of the possible threat potential from this fire. Residents and visitors are encouraged to make appropriate pre-evacuation preparations.

The Central California Animal Disaster Team has activated a small animal shelter at the Oakhurst Community Center Pavillion Building. Small animals can also be sheltered at the Mariposa SPCA, 5599 Highway 49 in Mariposa. The phone number is 209-966-5275. Large animals can be sheltered at the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds, at 44777 Rodeo Grounds Lane in Coarsegold. The phone number is 559-676-7864.

All roads past Wawona inside Yosemite are open, except Glacier Point Road, which was closed on Sunday due to increased fire activity on the Empire Fire.

For fire updates, residents and visitors can message RAILROADFIRE (one word) to 888777.

The Railroad Fire was reported at 12:20 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 29, just south of the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad on the west side of Highway 41. It is burning on the Bass Lake Ranger District of the Sierra National Forest.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Click here for a map you can zoom in on.


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