Carstens Fire in Mariposa County at 40% containment

Tiffany TuellJune 18, 2013 

Since early Sunday afternoon, June 16, hundreds of firefighters have been battling a blaze that, according to Cal Fire, was caused by an unattended campfire at the bottom of Plumbar Creek in Mariposa County.

By Tuesday, June 18, there were more than 2,200 fire personnel, along with 143 fire engines, 21 dozers, four water tenders, two helicopters and six air tankers, fighting the fire, which was at 15% containment. On Wednesday, June 19, Cal Fire said the fire, which has burnt 1,621 acres, was at 40% containment and that fire personnel had been reduced to 1,223.

One injury has been reported, but Cal Fire could not confirm if it was a firefighter or a private individual.

Road closures at this time include: Jerseydale Road, Carter Road, Buckingham Mountain Road, and Memory Lane Road. Triangle Road at Highway 140 to Darrah Road is only open to residences on the south side of Triangle Road.

Evacuation orders remain in effect for the areas of: Hites Cove; Jerseydale; Clarks Valley; Mariposa Pines; residents on the north side of Triangle Road, from Highway 140 to Darrah Road, including Carter Road, Buckingham Mountain Road and Memory Lane.

Re-entry areas include: Darrah Road to Valley View Road, including Nickel Plate Road, Triangle Road from Darrah Road to East Westfall Road, and Lushmeadows subdivision.

Because of the complexity of the fire, the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team assumed command of the incident at 6 p.m., Monday, June 17.

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.”

Evacuees

A Red Cross evacuation station has been set up at the Mariposa Elementary School, 5044 Jones Street. The Red Cross is offering food, water, a place to sleep, toiletries and a nurse on duty. Evacuees were taking horses to the Mariposa Fairgrounds and smaller pets to Mariposa Elementary School.

Cindy Thomas, Red Cross Disaster Services volunteer, said the Red Cross set up the evacuation center Sunday, June 16 and 11 evacuees stayed there overnight. Thomas said people have been mainly coming in for food and information. Thomas said the whole community has been kind and supportive and even people from Oakhurst are bringing donations to the center.

“They (Red Cross) have been lovely and are just fantastic and can’t do enough for you,” said Teri Scott, an evacuee who lives off Triangle Road with her brother, Mike Morgan. They were forced to evacuate at 1 a.m. Monday, June 17. Scott took her two dogs with her, then went back for her cat. Both are now staying at the pet evacuation center located at Mariposa Elementary.

“It’s scary,” Teri said. “ I don’t want to start over at 70 years of age. We live here in the middle of this beautiful area, so there’s a risk of fire. You think about what you’ll take — what you take is photos that hold memories of what’s most important to you.”

Denice and Ron Woyski were forced to evacuate from their Jerseydale home around 7 p.m. Sunday, June 16. As early as 2:30 p.m. that day, ash began to fall. The Woyskis began listening to the scanner, and Denice said they knew the fire was getting serious so they began to pack.

“We didn’t know what to do so we just waited,” she said.

When the call came that they needed to leave, Denice said they were not surprised.

“It’s weird, it’s surreal,” Denice said.

Jim and Sharon Wittkopf evacuated from their Jerseydale home around 10 p.m. Sunday, June 16. Their first priority was getting their 94-year-old parents, who also live on their property, to safety.

They said they could see flames coming over the mountain ridge near their home.

“We just want to go home but can’t,” Sharon said.

“It’s not going our direction, but we don’t want anyone to lose their home,” Jim said.

“We’ve had friends lose homes before, and it’s devastating,” Sharon said.

Air Quality

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. The air district warns that 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 valleyair.org/Programs/RAAN/raan_landing.htm or call (559) 230-6000.

Stay vigilant

“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 and exercise fire safety.”

Carstens Fire Incident Information can be found at cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_current

For road closures and evacuation areas, call 1-888-966-1133.

For fire Information, call (209) 966-4784.

For recorded emergency services information, call (209) 966-1133.

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