Crews made reportedly-excellent progress on the #WillowFire from Friday night into Saturday, although the blaze increased to more than 5,100 scorched acres, officials said it was all part of firefighter-controlled burns that helped slow down the inferno, which didn’t jump any containment lines and was 50% contained.
A community meeting will be held at 2 p.m. today inside the North Fork Town Hall, where incident managers will discuss current and expected fire behavior, evacuations, and address any concerns.
Work continues today for nearly 2,000 personnel staged at the old North Fork Mill site, who will monitor the wildfire at seven divisions staged along its perimeter.
To the southeast flank near Cascadel Woods, the section that grew the most in previous days, public information officer Fernando Herrera said a strong containment line about a mile northwest of the Cascadel area held up strong with no major problems.
“That whole southern flank held up really well,” Herrera said. “There were no spot fires reported over the line, and no issues were had. The crews there have made significant improvements.”
Divisions X and Y will continue backfires in the Cascadel section today – which stretched from shortly north of Peckinpah Creek to west of Whisky Falls – to help halt the conflagration’s progress, Herrera said, as well as begin cleanup on any burned areas.
A second containment line is also built to the east and across Cascadel Woods, Herrera said, should the situation with current dozer lines change.
To the north, where the fire remains uncontrolled, Herrera said the blaze’s growth over 7 Rock and other areas was holding up “better than the southern flank.”
“There’s a lot of new line built around that area,” Herrera said of the dozer line built along Central Camp Road by Division C, with further lines that stretch around the blaze’s path northeast towards Browns Meadow. “When the new map is updated you can take a look and see how great it’s going.”
Divisions A, B, and M will continue mopping up areas around the blaze’s controlled east and west flanks, with no spot fires or other problems reported during the night, Herrera said.
Herrera said 10 helicopters, 102 engine companies, 40 inmate crews, and 24 water tenders will be at work today. Additional support is expected from the California National Guard, which said it’s sending a fleet of at least nine helicopters to help combat the wildfire.
A federal BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) team is also en route, which many fire officials said shows the Willow Fire is approaching its final days.
Fire details can be seen at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4413/ or by calling (559) 877-7449.
Gaggs, Whiskers, and Whisky Falls campgrounds remain under evacuation, as well as all residences and areas around the Cascadel Woods, Douglas Ranger Station Road, and Central Camp.
Willow Canyon Road, Central Camp Road, Autumn Ridge Road, and Douglas Ranger Station Road remain closed.
Current cost to fight fire reaches $10.5 million
The Red Cross set up an evacuation shelter at the Oakhurst Community Center, where the Central California Animal Disaster Team can also house small animals. At least 21 people from Cascadel Woods stayed at the shelter overnight.
Smoke advisories remain in effect for Merced, Madera, and Fresno counties. People with heart or lung disease, as well as older adults and children, are advised to avoid prolonged exposure to smoky conditions related to the Willow Fire.
Smoke masks are also available at the North Fork Market, Sierra Star office in Oakhurst, Coarsegold Pharmacy, True Value Home Center in Oakhurst, Sierra Telephone, Madera County Fire Station 12 in Oakhurst, and the Madera County Sheriff’s Department in Oakhurst.
The mask are free and were donated by Camarena Health.
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