Fire continues to rage in Mariposa County

-- Staff reportJune 17, 2013 

A fire started around 2:12 p.m., Sunday, June 16 off Carstens Road, east of Highway 140 in the Midpines area of Mariposa County, according to Cal Fire. As of 10:25 a.m., Monday, June 17, more than 900 acres have burnt and the fire is at 15% containment.

Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service responded with more than 700 fire personnel, along with 143 fire engines, two helicopters, 21 dozers, and four water tenders.

Direct line construction is the primary tactic being used by firefighters as well as backfiring as conditions allow, according to Rebecca A. Garcia, public affairs officer for the Sierra National Forest.

“The fire is exhibiting extreme fire behavior, to include fire whirls and strong adverse winds,” Garcia said. “The biggest challenges facing firefighters today (June 17) will be the predicted low relative humidity and windy conditions.”

About 150 structures have been threatened and evacuations have been made for Hites Cove, Jerseydale, Clarks Valley, Triangle Road, and Scott Road.

A Red Cross evacuation station has been set up at the Mariposa Elementary School, 5044 Jones Street, and is offering cots to sleep on, blankets, food and water.

Road closures include: Highway 140 at Triangle Road, Carlton at Triangle Road, Silva at Triangle Road and Darrah at Triangle Road.

So far no structures have been damaged or destroyed and there have been no injuries.

“There have been a series of undesired fires of late due to barbecues and lawn mowers,” Garcia said. “Due to dry forest conditions, everyone needs to be fire conscious and stay vigilant, exercise fire safety.”

Garcia said that, based on the complexity of the fire and potential for growth, the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team will assume command of the incident at 6 p.m., Monday, June 17.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Because of the fire’s smoke emissions, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a cautionary health statement.

“Our standard is, if you can see smoke and smell smoke, you are being affected,” said Samir Sheikh, the Air District’s director of air quality analysis.

Smoke from fires produces fine-particulate matter (PM2.5), which can cause serious health problems including lung disease, asthma attacks and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. Where conditions warrant, people with heart or lung disease should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of particulate exposure. Additionally, older adults and children should avoid prolonged exposure or heavy exertion, depending on their local conditions.

Residents can check their nearest air monitor at www.valleyair.org/Programs/RAAN/raan_landing.htm or call (559) 230-6000.

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