MADERA COUNTY MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES – Our mountain community was warned the Mono Winds would begin around 7 p.m. on Monday evening the 18th of January as PG&E planned PSPS in the areas that held the greatest risk.
The night sky was clear, stars sparkled as the winds began to blow through the mountain slopes and canyons with a fierce rage unlike many long-term residents had ever witnessed. As the hour approached midnight the brunt of wind-force belted against the oak and pine trees.
At 11:32 the Mill Fire ignited near Douglas Ranger Station and Road 225 in the town of North Fork. With a threat to vegetation, first responders battled the blaze with hoses and dozer lines. Fearful neighbors posted photos on social media to warn the community.
While the flames whipped and fire command requested additional resources a small portion began evacuating from the nearby trailer park.
In short time the Manzanita Fire was reported, which has now been 100% contained. Fire crews were diverted from the Mill Fire to fight a new front, but were hampered by difficult access.
As the winds increased Hanford Weather Service put out a tweet, “Weather Winds materializing in the Sierra. Gusts to over 85 mph reported in Cascadel Heights just above North Fork at 1015 PM. Expect a very windy night to continue with damaging winds. A High Wind Warning is in effect.”
While working under intense conditions, calls flooded the 911 Dispatch in Mariposa, who then orchestrated the available resources to the most serious threats and made calls outside the community for fresh strike teams to aid the mountain communities.
Impassable roads were littered with downed trees, live electric wires and debris, delaying fire crews diverted to new emergencies.
In all seven named fires; Mill Fire, Manzanita Fire, Bear Clover Fire, Cedar Fire, Crest Fire, Donkey Fire, Grupe Fire, and five unnamed fires in Bass Lake, Raymond, Ahwahnee, Boot Jack plus two more in Oakhurst would stretch the fiber of resources.
Help would soon arrive from our neighbors in all directions, but the night would be long for many as fires increased and the Mono Wind continued.
By early morning the vicious wind would ease, but not without a path of fury, damage and destruction.
General Contractor Dave Novell of North Fork said the damage is extensive around the mountain community.
He reported many calls for help. Some are simple like missing shingles, decks and sheet metal repairs yet many are far more severe with fallen trees crashing through and destroying large portions of homes.
Jessica Reed of Oakhurst, a single mother, moved to Oakhurst from Los Angeles to raise her two young children. She worked at Mint Condition Salon for three years until they closed in March due to the pandemic, and then she opened her own salon Diamond Studios/Speakeasy Salon at 40680 Hwy. 41 in April 2020. Three years ago her home flooded and she remodeled their home herself with the help from friends, as she could afford it. They had just finished remodeling three days ago.
As the Mono Winds blasted, a split trunk tree 60 – 75 feet tall fell five feet away from her sleeping daughter’s bedroom, her daughter was not injured. Estimates from insurance, three quarters of the house needs to be taken down and rebuilt. Jessica, like so many, is devastated by the destruction, but her spirits are hopeful. “I’m going to stay positive, whatever gets done will get done, my kids are safe and that is the most important.”
Friends of Jessica have set up a Go Fund me account to help Jessica with the costs of replacing all that she has lost. To help please click here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ebt7p-help-jessica-rebuild?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet
Video below shows the damage to Jessica’s home, property and vehicles.