NORTH FORK – The Old Mill Site in North Fork will once again play host to an Incident Command Post as the Willow Fire ravages 200 acres north of town.
The fire was reported at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 25, at the end of Willow Canyon Drive, and quickly raced north and east, burning in heavy fuels. It is zero percent contained as of 9 p.m. this evening, and some 450 homes are reportedly threatened.
As firefighters headed out to battle the blaze, CHP closed down Road 274 and sheriff’s deputies went door to door advising residents on the east side of 274 that they would have to evacuate, and giving advisory warnings to others who may be threatened.
They also headed up to the mountain camps to evacuate Whiskers Campground, Whiskey Falls, Gaggs Camp and Central Camp. Some who are camping in the area refused to leave, and deputies took their information before moving on to continue their notifications.
Area roads were lined with people taking photos and video, or just pulling up lawn chairs to watch the air show as tankers, helicopters and VLATs (Very Large Air Tankers) hit the fire until nightfall ended their operations.
Incident Commander Charlotte Jordan has been ordering up resources for tomorrow, and strike teams of engines, dozers and crews are rolling into town, staging at the mill site just east of town. There are currently 447 personnel assigned to the incident, but those numbers are sure to grow substantially overnight and into tomorrow.
The fire has reportedly spotted out ahead of itself towards Whiskers and Browns Meadow, and ever-changing winds throughout the day made firefighting even more challenging than the exploding trees and heavy smoke.
As of 9 p.m., Road 274 remains closed between Willow Canyon Drive and Marina View.
Residents of Marina View have been notified that they may be evacuated, but as of this hour, they are being allowed to stay in their homes. Only residents will be given access, and they will be required to prove that they live there.
Douglas Ranger Station Road is closed at Trails End, and residents of Wild Rose and Bear Clover have been notified that they need to be prepared to evacuate, but they are not under an evacuation order at this time.
Autumn Ridge Way (Whiskey Falls Road/Forest Road 8S09) is closed at Cascadel Woods, and the campgrounds above it have been evacuated.
The Willow Fire is currently under the joint command of Cal Fire and the US Forest Service, and will transition to a Type 2 Management Team at 6 p.m. tomorrow. The South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team, headed up by David Cooper, Fire Management Officer on the Bass Lake Ranger District. This is the same team who managed the French Fire last year, and the Sky Fire in June.
The American Red Cross of the Central Valley is opening an evacuation center at the Oakhurst Community Center, 39800 Road 425B, for residents affected by the Willow Fire.
Volunteers will be on scene to provide comfort, snacks, and water for evacuated families. The Red Cross is also coordinating with the Central California Animal Disaster Team to care for domestic pets.