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Update On Gold Fire Near O'Neals

O’NEALS – Fire season got off to a roaring start when dozens of firefighters, plus engines and equipment from all over the area and the state were dispatched to a fire near O’Neals on Tuesday, Apr. 30.

Cal Fire reports that the Gold Fire grew to about 274 acres, and is now 100% contained. As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Cal Fire Investigator Darrin McCully estimated about 60 personnel were on scene. Smoke from FireThe fire started shortly after 1 p.m. and was called in by several people in the area, including 24-year-old Anthony Moschella who saw the smoke on his way to work, and George Hawks who didn’t have a phone, according to neighbors, so he headed to a nearby house.

The fire burned along the north side of Road 210, also know as Hildreth Road, just east of O’Neals. Firefighters kept it from crossing the road, sparing the three homes along the south side. Then they faced a challenging task as it burned north into very steep and rocky terrain. (click photos to enlarge)

Retardant Drop 1

The blaze was attacked from the air with three air tankers and one helicopter, and six bulldozers came in to put a line around the perimeter.

Nervous residents watched the air show and drove up and down the road, which was packed with fire equipment, in various farm utility vehicles. Once they were satisfied that firefighters had things in hand, and that their homes were safe, they seemed to enjoy watching these men and women as they did their jobs.

The large column of smoke could be seen from all over the area, and news crews from Fresno’s ABC30 and Channels 26 and 47 were on the scene, with Channel 30 broadcasting live at 6 and 11 p.m.

Crews monitored the fire throughout the night, and today have two strike teams working the fire, including one from Tuolmne-Calaveras, and one from San Bernardino-Monterey. There are also hand crews from Vallacito-Calaveras, one from Mt. Bullion, a Cal Fire helicopter, two county and two private water tenders.

Road 210 was closed yesterday afternoon and into the night to anyone who was not a resident. Madera County Sheriff’s Office Citizens on Patrol manned the barriers at intersections along Road 211.

No injuries have been reported on the fire line, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Resources dispatched yesterday included:

Fire Crews and engines 1– Madera County Fire Department Engines – YLP #10, Oakhurst #12, Raymond #15, Ahwahnee #16, Cedar Valley #18 and firefighters from North Fork Station #11

– Cal Fire Engines – #4254, #4275, #4284, #4285, #4292, #4362, #4371, #4673, #4677 and #4681

– Water Tenders – Coarsegold #13, O’Neals #17 and Madera Ranchos #19

– Four Cal Fire Dozers

– Two Private Dozers

– Four Hand Crews

– Two Strike TeamsFlames on Gold FireSmoke from fire 2Fire Crews and engines 1Retardant Drop 3Firefighters walking near the lineEngine 4275 and firefighter in the smokeSlurry from retardant dropFirefighter Jere MillerHelicopter and crews on fire lineEngine 4254 and Engine 10Crews on a breakFirefighters share water bottlesCedar Valley Engine 18Fire Dies DownRaymond Engine 15 and Water Tender 17 with Augie CapuchinoWorking the hot spotsStaging areaEngines along the roadRoad blocked by equipment

Another welcome addition to the team was the Madera County Support Unit, manned by volunteers, and ready to provide tired, hungry firefighters with cold water, coffee and drinks, and whatever they’d like to eat from the menu, including perennial favorites mac & cheese and peanut butter & jelly.

Larry Wolford, retired firefighter from Station #19 in the Ranchos, and volunteer Denise Newman were set up and ready to provide some much-needed sustinance after a day of hard work on a very warm day.

The unit contains such luxuries as a bathroom, generator, microwave, air conditioning and a stash of very comfortable folding chairs to provide a relaxing place for a well-deserved rest.Madera County Support Unit Inside

Larry Wolford and Denise Newman wait to feed hungry firefighters

One comment

  1. Neil McDougald

    Gold Fire – O’Neals


    This was a great news article. The pictures and narrative captured the rangeland resources burned and suppression resources used to control and mop up the fire. But what was the cost-benefit to the taxpayers of California? The rangeland annual grazing value for the area is near $15.00 per acre. Cal Fire reports about 274 acres burned. The grazing value lost for the year would be 274 acres times $15/acre or $4,110.

    The fire burned up slope in annual grass covered with an open canopy of scattered Blue Oak and Grey Pine with a light understory of shrubs. This is typical vegetation found on south facing slopes in the O’Neals area, not a fuel type highly resistant to suppression. I believe the Cal Fire suppression resources dispatched vastly exceeded what was necessary to suppress the fire.

    The three homes protected by Cal Fire were across County Road 210, down slope and quite possibly down wind of the fire. As long as the owners had completed their annual hazard reduction, the structures were at low risk.

    It is always hard to predict how large a fire will get and what resources are at risk. In this situation, the fire rapidly spread up a south facing slope in dry grass. Once the fire reached the top of Hildreth mountain, the rate of spread would be substantially reduced by grass with higher fuel moisture on north facing slopes this time of year. Fire burning down slope is in a completely different burning environment than fire burning up slope as viewed from Road 210. Once the fire reached the top of the mountain, it could have been quickly contained by a smaller investment in suppression resources.

    The big question. What was the suppression cost of the Gold Fire?

    Have fun.


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