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Firefighters on the Railroad Fire - photo by Dan Tune USFS

Spot Fire Southwest Of Railroad Fire Continues To Challenge Crews

OAKHURST — While the big plume of smoke just outside the southwest perimeter of the Railroad Fire looks ominous, crews made some good progress on the fire today.

It is now estimated at 10,745 acres with 30 percent containment.

There are currently 872 personnel assigned to the incident including 89 engines, 14 hand crews and 14 dozers.

Today saw a lot of assist from the air after the smoke dissipated, included the 747 Super Tanker, which made its presence known during the evening briefing in Ahwahnee.

On the big spot fire just north of Bissett Station Road (Road 620), crews got a lot of line constructed on the west and south perimeter. This spot is in very challenging terrain with limited access, and as of this morning was estimated at 422 acres. Crews have just 1,500 more feet to get the line tied in, but in that area, that’s a long way.

Smoke from that fire is visible from all around, and the spot was hit hard by tankers large and small late this afternoon and into the evening.

On the west flank and across the bottom of the line, firefighters did a lot of patrol work, and dealt with a few hot spots. The line is holding well.

Up north of Jackson Road, crews did some light firing to ease the fire down to Rainier Creek, and overnight they will do some more aggressiveness firing operations to tie it in to the dozer line and bring it down into Big Sandy.

On the east side, firefighter did some scouting to see what the fire is doing. It is still within the dozer lines that were cut in a few days ago, and air tankers dropped some retardant along that edge today to strengthen the line.

Fire officials are very happy with what the fire is doing in Nelder Grove. It is very calmly backing down through the grove, not moving very fast, with 2-3 foot flame lengths and only occasional tree torches. “Beautiful fire effects,” says Operations.

Up at Calvin Crest the fire has moved all along the access road to the camp, and has backed down into the dozer line put in yesterday. Crews began burning the dozer line that goes down into Cedar Valley with good success. While the fire is still up high on the ridge, planners are confident they are out in front of it so it can’t make any runs back up the dozer line. There have been no reports of any damage to Calvin Crest or Camp Redwoods.

Everything in the Sugar Pine/Railroad area is reported to be holding very well with no problems.

Railroad Fire facing east from just above Cedar Valley on Highway 41 – photo by Gina Clugston

Crews did some burning on the north end of Cedar Valley today, bringing the fire around the north edge and tying it back in to where it has backed down into Lewis Creek around Corlieu Falls. They didn’t do any burning on Lewis Creek south of Sugar Pine, but crews prepped in that area all day for possible firing operations later.

Things were pretty quiet on the line from Westfall back around to the south and west.

There was one isolated thunderstorm around 3 p.m. this afternoon just east of the fire, but winds remained fairly calm and no lightning was reported. There is nothing of concern in the overnight forecast, with mostly clear skies and temperatures in the mid 60s to 70s, and humidity recovery of about 70 percent.

Crews continue to protect structures in the Cedar Valley and Sky Ranch areas.

Dennis Fitzgerald reports today that the Episcopal Conference Center Oakhurst (ECCO) and St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church didn’t let the current crisis deter them from a bit of forward thinking. They worked together to save food and reward our first responders when ECCO lost power.

With the ECCO kitchen without electricity and the potential for a lot of spoiled food, everything was loaded up and taken to St. Raphael’s – where the lights were still on – accompanied by the executive chef and pastry chef.

The food was prepared for distribution to those first responders who were providing security for the Railroad Fire this morning and again at noon. “A good time was had by all,” says Dennis.

PG&E, Caltrans and contractors continue their work to remove hazards and repair infrastructure so that Highway 41 can be reopened, and the area repopulated. There is still no estimated date for that to happen, but all the agencies are working hard to get to that point, so that is safe for the public to return.

Closures and evacuations on the Railroad Fire (in addition to Sky Ranch):

The mandatory evacuation for the the community of Fish Camp and the Tenaya Lodge has been lifted for residents only. Highway 41 and the area is still closed to the public. Residents must enter from inside Yosemite National Park and show identification.

A mandatory evacuation order has been issued 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 remain under an evacuation order.

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 combines with the one at the Oakurst Community Center, 39800 Road 425B. The Red Cross remains on standby for the church and is ready to reopen in short order should the need arise.

The Central California Animal Disaster Team (CCADT) has activated a small animal shelter at the Oakhurst Community Center Pavilion Building. 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 has 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.

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 cause of the fire is under investigation.

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