OAKHURST – Smoke rising over the mountains north of Oakhurst and the sounds of sirens racing up Highway 41 got everyone’s attention just after 7 p.m. this evening.
A full wildland dispatch was called up for a series of fires along Lewis Creek off Deer Run Trail Road on Tuesday, July 8.
Dubbed the Allen Incident, there were reportedly nine separate ignition points, with two fires burning into each other, which gave crews eight perimeters to control.
Five fires were burning on the west side of Lewis Creek, and four on the east, a few hundred yards apart.
Two women who were enjoying the evening by the creek were alerted to a whooshing and crackling noise first, then saw two fires over on the far bank and called 911.
Resources were called up from Sierra National Forest, Madera County Fire and Cal Fire. Cedar Valley’s Station #18 is just up the road, and a Forest Service strike team from Salt Lake had been training at Batterson Work Station, just a couple miles away.
Crews were quickly on the scene, and though they thought they were responding to two fires, quickly discovered a string of them up and down the creek, above and below the bridge on Deer Run Trail. The number climbed from five to six, and finally nine.
As firefighters from the first engines on scene assessed the situation, they called for reinforcements and more resources were dispatched. The narrow mountain road was clogged with engines and water tenders, and law enforcement was called in to control traffic. Deer Run Trail was closed to allow fire equipment clear and safe access.
Mark Smith, Battalion Chief on the Bass Lake Ranger District, took over as Incident Commander, and by 8:30 p.m., all fires were contained.
One structure at the top of a hill was threatened, but firefighters stopped forward progress before any damage was done.
Initial reports are that the largest fire was about 1/4 acre.
The release of Madera County Fire and Cal Fire Engines began at about 9 p.m., with the exception of one Mt. Bullion Crew. Sierra National Forest engines, including the Crane Valley Hot Shots, continued to roll in as County engines returned to quarters.
SNF crews will stay through the night for mop-up and patrol.
The cause is, of course, under investigation.