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Engines fuel up for the day at Base Camp in Ahwahnee - photo by Gina Clugston

Railroad Fire 50 Percent Contained, Highway 41 To Open Soon

OAKHURST —  Firefighters continued to make good progress on the Railroad Fire overnight, and officials have released their plan for repopulating evacuated areas and reopening Highway 41.

The fire is now estimated at 12,141 acres with 50 percent containment.

Fire officials have announced this schedule for the lifting of evacuations:

  • The Fish Camp area will be open to the public on Friday, Sept. 8, though people will have to access from the north as Highway 41 will still be closed until Saturday.
  • Sky Ranch will be open to residents only at 5 p.m. on Friday up to Buckskin only.
  • Sugar Pine will be open to residents only at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Highway 41 will be open to everyone at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Cedar Valley – officials hope to reopen by the end of the weekend.

As far as fire activity goes, it was a fairly quiet night. Crews continue to gain containment on the northeast and southwest perimeters.

Burning operations around Cedar Valley have been successful as the fire continues to back down to the new dozer line. Structure protection groups are still working throughout the community.

Forward progress on the spot fire north of Road 620 (Bissett Station) has been stopped, and crews are doing mop-up and strengthening lines. The spot is holding at 673 acres.

As firelines are secured in what are now the cooler areas, resources are being moved to the east where the active fire is burning from Big Sandy to Nelder Grove. The fire continues to spread southeast toward California Meadow from Speckerman Mountain.

The interior lines around Sugar Pine and along Lewis Creek are holding well.

Fire suppression repair is underway in the areas of containment, as crews work to mitigate any damage done during the active suppression efforts. This work includes removing slash and debris from roadways, clearing drainages, re-establishing berms, creating water bars, smoothing dozered areas and scattering lopped vegetation on cleared soil to prevent erosion.

Temperatures were cooler this morning, and are expected to be similar to yesterday with mostly sunny skies. There should be some afternoon cumulus buildup out toward the north and east. Crews on the line should see temps in the lower 70s at 6,000 feet, and into the lower 80s around 3,500.

There are currently 1,045 personnel assigned to the incident.

There have been six injuries to firefighters.

Preparing for repopulation:

Looking forward, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office would like to expedite the process for residents to gain access to their residences when the danger from the Railroad Fire has passed and repopulation occurs.

In light of this effort, MCSO will open the Oakhurst Substation for residents to come present documentation as proof they live in the evacuated area. Proof of residency could include Driver’s License, Vehicle Registration, or Utility Bill.

The Sheriff’s Office will provide residents with a pass for entry. This will expedite access when re-population occurs, as well as assist with the flow of in/out traffic during the first 24 hours of re-population.

This action serves to simplify the process and maintain order when people are allowed to return home safely.

Residents are not required to have a pass, but they will have to prove residency. The pass just allows them to breeze on through the roadblocks without having to pull to the side and wait to be confirmed.

The hours of the Oakhurst Substation, located at 48267 Liberty Drive, are listed below.

  • Friday, Sept. 8, from 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sept. 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Closures and evacuations on the Railroad Fire – Please see updates at the beginning of the article.

The public closure in the the community of Fish Camp and the Tenaya Lodge will be lifted tomorrow. Highway 41 and the area is still closed to the public. Residents must enter from inside Yosemite National Park and show identification until the road opens on Saturday.

A mandatory evacuation order is in place for the entire Cedar Valley subdivision.

Highway 41 remains closed in both directions from Cedar Valley on the south (about three miles north of Oakhurst), to Yosemite National Park. Yosemite visitors should use Highway 49 to Highway 140 or 120 for entrance to the National Park.

Still under a mandatory evacuation are the Narrow Gauge Inn, the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, the community of Sugar Pine including the Christian Camp, Cedar Valley, Sky Ranch, Big Sandy and Summerdale campgrounds, Nelder Grove, Camp Redwood, Paradise Springs, Calvin Crest, ECCO Conference Center, and Soquel and Texas Flat campgrounds.

Road 620 (Bissett Station) has been given an evacuation advisory due to the spot fire just north toward Miami Motorcycle Trails.

Forest Road Closures:

  • Road 632 (Sky Ranch)
  • Forest Road 6S07 (Jackson Road) to Beasore
  • Forest Road 5S10 at 5S39
  • Forest Road 6S13 at Road 274
  • Forest Road 6S08 at 6S36
  • Forest Road 6S10 at 6S39
  • Forest Road 6S99 at Beasore Road
  • Forest Road 6S40 at Beasore Road
  • Forest Road 6S40X at Beasore Road
  • Forest Road 5S40Y at Beasore Road
  • Worman Road one mile in from Highway 49 (at Road 601).

The Red Cross Evacuation Center at the Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church in Oakhurst has been closed down, and combined with the one at the Oakhurst Community Center at 39800 Road 425B. The Red Cross remains on standby for the church and is ready to reopen in short order should the need arise. About 40 people are currently housed at the shelter.

The Central California Animal Disaster Team (CCADT) has activated a small animal shelter at the Oakhurst Community Center Pavilion Building, and are currently house 47 pets. Large animals can be sheltered at the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds, at 44777 Rodeo Grounds Lane in Coarsegold. The phone number is 559-676-7864.

For animal evacuations, please call the Sheriff’s Office Dispatch at (559) 675-7770 to request help. CCADT will be working with Madera County Animal Control to help with evacs if needed

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

All roads past Wawona inside Yosemite are open, including Glacier Point Road, which had been closed since Aug. 27 due to increased fire activity on the Empire Fire. Expect smoky conditions.

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.

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