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Railroad Fire Continues To Push East, Moves Farther Into Nelder Grove

FISH CAMP — Crews made good progress on the southwest perimeter of the Railroad Fire today, while still dealing with multiple spot fires on the northeast.

The estimate on acreage remains the same as this morning — 5,414 acres. As of this evening, it is 15 percent contained.

Resources continue to arrive at Base Camp, and head out to the lines. There are now 823 personnel assigned to the incident including 58 engines, 12 crews, 8 dozers, 12 water tenders and 4 helicopters. Air tankers have been ordered and will support the fire as they become available.

The Incident Management Team continues to work closely with PG&E and Caltrans to get power systems back up and running and remove any hazard trees from along roadways. There is no estimate as to when residents will be allowed to return home, or Highway 41 will be opened.

Crews were successful in getting a combination of hand and dozer line constructed all the way up the left flank, from the Miami Mountain area up to the line southwest of Fish Camp that was call contained as of this morning. They also got hose lays in along that entire line.

After just a short time on the job today, all the air tankers on this incident were diverted to other fires, says Operations.

There was a breakout north of Jackson Road today near Rainier Creek but officials believe that portion of the fire will be stopped with a bit of help from the creek, which is fairly wide and still contains a good amount of water.

Crews conducted burning operations on the northeast perimeter today to remove unburned fuels inside the line. That section of the fire continues to challenge firefighters as spot fires are a daily occurrence. Crews and dozers on the night shift assigned to that division will focus on strengthening that line and wrapping up those hot spots.

The lines between the Yosemite Mt. Sugar Pine Railroad and the community of Sugar Pine appear to be holding at this point, though the southward spread toward Sugar Pine continues. Dozer line was cut last night to check the progression in that area.

There are no problems reported around Fish Camp or the Tenaya Lodge.

Fuels along the Graveyard of the Giants Trail – photo by Gina Clugston

The fire continues its push into the Nelder Grove of giant sequoias. It is reportedly moving south along the ground and has not moved into the crowns of the trees. There are very heavy fuels in the Grove, which hasn’t seen a fire of any significance in over 100 years. The fire behavior and the heat with which it burns will be the major factor in whether the ancient trees will survive.

The fire continues to be dominated by unseasonably hot and dry weather. Temperatures will continue to be above normal with low relative humidity levels until early next week when the remnants of a tropical storm in Baja California will promote cooling, however, it will also increase the risk for thunderstorms.

Even with these extreme conditions and the constant threat from dead trees falling, there have been no injures to firefighters reported thus far.

As the fire pushes east, there is more to consider than just keeping would-be campers out of the danger zone through the holiday weekend.

Ranchers with cattle in the high country near Kelty Meadow, east of Speckerman Mountain, will be bringing them out a little early this year. Stock trucks and trailers headed up Sky Ranch Road today to load up their livestock ahead of the fire.

The Madera County Sheriff’s Office has deputies assigned to the fire Management Team, as well as the patrol of the Sugar Pine and Highway 41 areas, and roads in the high country. Citizens on Patrol volunteers are securing road closures, and Search & Rescue Volunteers are on standby with OHV equipment if needed to evacuate injured firefighters.

Though the community of Wawona is not under direct threat at this time, members of the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team and Yosemite National Park officials will host an informational briefing on Sunday, Sept. 3, at 5 p.m. at the Wawona Community Center, for employees and members of the community.

Closures and evacuations on the Railroad Fire:

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

Road closures include all Highway 41 offshoots between Cedar Valley Road and Summerdale Campground north of Fish Camp, in both Madera County and Mariposa County, and Road 630 (Sugar Pine Road) and all cross streets, including Sugar Pine Christian Camps.

Jackson Road (6S07) is closed from Fish Camp to Beasore Road.

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, Big Sandy Campground and Summerdale Campground.

Sky Ranch (Road 632) is under an evacuation advisory from Highway 41 to Buckskin Lane. The road is closed beyond that point, and evacuations ordered for Nelder Grove, Camp Redwood, Paradise Springs, Calvin Crest, and Soquel and Texas Flat campgrounds.

There have been some changes to this list of Forest road closures:

  • Road 632 at Buckskin Lane
  • 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 community of Wawona is being warned of the possible threat potential from this fire. Residents and visitors are encouraged to make appropriate pre-evacuation preparations.

The Red Cross Evacuation Center at the Oakhurst Community Center has been closed down due to lack of need, as has the one in Yosemite Valley. 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 Red Cross 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.

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.

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

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 estimated date for containment is Friday, Sept. 8.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

To view the map below on a website where you can zoom in and out, click here.

For those of you who want all the details, click here for the 3-page operations map.


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