Mariposa County residents thankful as crews get grip on wildfire

06/17/2013 8:40 AM

07/13/2013 8:52 PM

Carol and Jim Smock know the drill for people who live in the mountains: The couple have had a "grab and go" bag packed for several years with legal papers, passports and an inventory of their possessions.

So they were ready, they said in an email, when they saw headlights coming up the driveway at close to midnight Sunday and heard a heavy knock on their door.

"We were told there was a mandatory evacuation for our side of Triangle Road and asked to leave as soon as possible," they wrote.

So, they packed up their cat, Lucie, and have been bunking with friends since then to stay out of the way of the Carstens fire, which has consumed more than 1,800 acres since it started Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, firefighters made good progress against the blaze, bringing containment from 15 percent to 40 percent, said Sherry Reckler, director of public affairs and communications for the Pacific Southwest region of the U.S. Forest Service.

Despite continued high winds, firefighters secured the line of the fire at the north end and backed it away from the Triangle Road area. Reckler said roughly 700 evacuations would be lifted Tuesday evening, though others will remain in place.

On that side, "it's looking really good," Reckler said. One person has been injured; she did not have information on whether it was a firefighter who was injured, or how badly.

Also Tuesday, state fire officials said they had found the cause of the blaze: an unattended campfire. More than 2,200 firefighters were battling the blaze, which had threatened 500 homes but consumed none.

The Smocks got visual confirmation their house was unscathed; they saw a photo of it as part of The Bee's coverage of the fire.

"Just let us say how nice it was to see our house still standing, it is only 13 years old," they said in an email. "We are retired 14 years now, having a great time and not ready to lose our wonderful home."

Across Triangle Road, Anita and Phillip Holmes were sticking it out. They had not been evacuated.

Anita Holmes said Tuesday that the fire seemed to have receded from the immediate area.

"There's a lot of smoke today," she said. "I was a little concerned yesterday because you could see the flames coming over the ridge."

Holmes said she and her neighbors aren't getting any mail and several roads have been closed, but grocery stores in Mariposa remain open.

"We're lucky enough anyway, because I'd just been to Costco," Holmes said, so she had stocked up on food for her family and their pets.

Holmes and the Smocks said they were impressed with the work of the firefighters in keeping the flames away from houses and people.

"(We) have a huge amount of confidence in our amazing firefighters," the Smocks wrote. "We can't begin to thank them for their bravery and knowledge!"

And they were keeping the situation in perspective.

"As long as people are safe and nobody's died and they haven't lost any homes, that's the main thing," Holmes said. "Your life comes first."

Bee Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.

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