Blaze threatens homes near Jamestown

Firefighters assist a helicopter to land near the site of a more than a 100 acre wildland fire.
Firefighters assist a helicopter to land near the site of a more than a 100 acre wildland fire. Modesto Bee

JAMESTOWN — Firefighters on Tuesday evening launched an aggressive attack on a wildfire that burned 102 acres to keep flames from reaching about 200 structures, most of them homes in Tuolumne County, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

As of 9 p.m., the fire was 60 percent contained and full containment was expected late Tuesday, said Lisa Williams, a Cal Fire spokeswoman.

Flames destroyed one storage container and damaged one home, but the extent of the home's damage was not available.

No injuries were reported.

The fire burned north from French Flat and Williamson roads toward the Tuttletown area. Wind gusts peaked at about 16 mph, and numerous spot fires initially made it difficult for firefighters to gain control.

The blaze posed a serious threat to homes, so authorities dispatched about 250 firefighters to the area, along with eight aircraft, Williams said.

"With so much dry fuel out there, there was a concern it could've been something big," she said.

Firefighters on the ground had support from two helicopters and two air tankers from Cal Fire, as well as four C-130 cargo planes from the National Guard that each can hold 3,000 gallons of fire retardant, Wil- liams said.

The aircraft proved to be the dominating factor that allowed firefighters to gain control of the blaze, she said.

No other structures were damaged, including Mark Twain's cabin, which was threatened by the fire at one point, Williams said.

MyMotherLode.com reported that Cal Fire investigators had determined that the fire originated in an old storage shed. Investigator Rommie Jones said it appears that the fire was caused by a human, the Web site reported.

However, Williams said Cal Fire investigators had not determined the cause of the fire as of 9 p.m.

The fire appeared to have started about three miles northwest of Jamestown and just west of Rawhide Road, jumped Mormon Creek and moved at a moderate pace with plenty of dry, heavy vegetation to burn, said Nancy Longmore, a Cal Fire spokeswoman.

'Calling them all in'

Several firefighting agencies from Tuolumne and Stanislaus counties battled the wildfire, including crews from Modesto, Salida, Oakdale Rural and Stanislaus Consolidated.

"We're calling them all in," Longmore said of the firefighting response to the threat to homes.

Pattie Brooks is an assistant manager at Glory Hole Marina at New Melones Reservoir, about seven miles north of the fire on the north side of the Highway 49 Bridge over the Stanislaus River.

She said she could see red smoke coming from the blaze, but that the fire threat moving north had dissipated by 7 p.m.

"Now, it's looking more like a grayish color," Brooks said.

The California Highway Patrol and the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department were at the scene in case residents had to be evacuated.

Rolling hills with 2-foot-high grass and scattered oak trees provided the fuel for the fire.

"It was just blowing up oak trees," said Mike Allott, who lives on Rawhide Road.

He said the fire moved mostly north and never went southeast toward Jamestown. Allott, 59, said he saw aircraft dump large amounts of fire retardant on the flames.

Cal Fire crews were expected to remain in the area until Thursday morning, putting out smoldering spots, Williams said.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.