Thousands of acres of wild brush burned out of control Monday near Lake McClure in Mariposa County, forcing evacuations along several rural roads and damaging at least two buildings.
Calfire officials reported the Detwiler fire just before 4 p.m. Sunday. Five hours later, flames had raced through more than 2,500 acres of brush around Hunters Valley and Detwiler roads. Overnight, the fire erupted, torching more than 7,100 acres by Monday morning with zero containment, Calfire reported.
Crews from Merced City Fire Department deployed Sunday to assist in firefighting efforts.
Meanwhile, dry, hot weather and steep terrain hampered firefighting efforts at the heart of the fire, said Jaime Williams, a Calfire spokeswoman.
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Temperatures climbed as the day progress, but information about the fast-moving fire slowed and it was unclear Monday evening whether firefighters were making progress.
One structure was destroyed and another damaged, though it’s not clear what kind of structures they were. Williams was unable to say how many people were forced from their homes, whether any homes had been damaged, how many acres had burned as of Monday evening and whether any of the fire had been contained.
Evacuations and road closures were reported for Hunters Valley Road, Bear Valley Road, Hunters Valley Access Road, Detwiler Road and Highway 49 from Pendola Garden Road to Fremont Fort. The Red Cross set up an evacuation center at Mariposa Elementary School, where six people stayed Sunday night.
Janet Kirkland, 72, who lives in a ravine in Hunters Valley, was more prepared to evacuate Sunday than she was three years ago.
Last time, she left the house with the clothes on her back, her two dogs and her purse.
This time, she took all her legal documents in a steel box and a flash drive.
“I have no idea if my home burned or not,“ she said. “The last fire came into the back of the valley, nowhere close to us, and we were gone three days. This time every fire department from here to LA is on the fire.“
Her two dogs, a Pomeranian named Gizzy and a Manchester chihuahua named Precious, knew the evacuation routine, too.
“They saw the smoke, and I said ‘load up’ and they were in the car 10 minutes before I was,” Kirkland said.
After living in the foothills for more than 30 years, nothing surprises Kirkland anymore.
“I’m hardened like a brick,” she joked.
The Kimbro family, who lives in Bear Valley, also stayed at the Red Cross shelter Sunday night.
They brought with them family photos and extra clothes, but not much else.
“I’ve been burned out twice before in house fires,” said Shane Kimbro, 56. “I don’t get too excited, but I take it serious too.”
The family has seen fires before but never had to evacuate. They worried about their neighbors and their homes more than 12 miles away from the shelter.
“We expect more people to show up, but hope it doesn’t get to that point,” Kimbro said.
Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office posted a dramatic video of the fire, showing trees engulfed in flames and smoke limiting visibility on the roadway.
The Red Cross shelter at Mariposa Elementary School, 5044 Jones St., is offering overnight shelter, three meals a day, snacks, health services, and animal shelters for residents displaced by the fire.
“You don’t have to sleep in our shelter to receive our services,” said Jessica Piffero, a public information officer with Red Cross.
The shelter will stay open as long as necessary and is prepared to help as many families as possible, she said.
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477
Homeowners can stay prepared and receive alerts by downloading the Cal Fire wildfire mobile app. Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office also used nixle.com to keep residents updated.