The French Fire, which was first reported by Shuteye Peak Lookout at about 5:45 a.m., July 28, is now 90% contained, after burning 13,835 acres. It is expected that many of the 1,336 fire personnel remaining will be released either by the end of today (Friday, Aug. 8), or tomorrow morning.
“The crews are working on mop-up and clean-up, and bringing in hose lines,” Public Information Officer for the U.S. Dept. of Forest Service Donna Storch said. “The mop-up is 100% into the fire area and around the fire’s perimeter, and as of Thursday (Aug. 7), there has been no night shift. Infra-red maps show some heat on the northern end, so there will continue to be smoke as the fire creeps and smolders.”
The estimated cost of the French Fire topped $12 million. The fire not only burned within rough and rugged terrain, but there were days that the thick smoke prevented air support from being used to its fullest potential.
It has been determined that an abandoned campfire located towards the bottom of Rock Creek Road, near the San Joaquin River, was the cause. Investigators believe a long log was left in the campfire, extending into nearby pine needles. As the log burned and reached the pine needles, the fire extended into the forest starting the French Fire.
A forest order has been in place since June 25, restricting campfires in the Sierra National Forest, to help prevent just such an incident, given the extreme drought conditions. Campfires were not permitted unless they were in a designated campground during the time of the incident.
Investigators with the Sierra National Forest are asking for the public's help for information about anyone who was seen in the area of Rock Creek Road near the San Joaquin River on or during the afternoon or evening of Sunday, July 27.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the French Fire information line at (559) 877-2605.