The Railroad Fire, a rampaging blaze north of Oakhurst that threatened ecological landmarks and placed hundreds, if not thousands of people under evacuation, showed minor growth into Tuesday morning, with spokespeople expressing “cautious optimism” that more progress will be made.
“I believe crews are confident that progress levels will stay the same as the great work that was made yesterday,” said Alex Olow, information officer with the South Central Sierra Interagency Management Team. “I guess you could call it cautious optimism. Anything can happen with a fire, of course, but they’re making really good headway out there.”
As of Tuesday morning, the inferno was reported at 10,734 acres and 23% contained, with the total of lost structures still at 14, Olow said.
He said a combination of higher humidity and lower temperatures Monday allowed personnel - 835 with 89 engines, 12 bulldozers, 13 hand crews, five helicopters, and air tankers on order Tuesday - to ensure no additional structural damage took place in Sugar Pine, on Sky Ranch Road, or Fish Camp, all communities most threatened by the blaze.
“Based on what I’ve seen, it’s probably closest to Sugar Pine right now,” Olow said. “With that said, humidity and lower temperatures really helped firefighters slow the spread. There’s still no additional structural damage to report, and crews are working hard out there right now to keep these areas safe.”
Further on the positive end, evacuation orders for Fish Camp were also lifted Monday evening. Highway 41 remains closed in Madera County up to the line with Mairposa County in the area, where the highway was reopened to Yosemite National Park. Residents are being allowed to return, but will have to provide photo identification, and can only enter by traveling through the park.
Olow said on the western and southwestern flank of the fire, crews remained in mopup staging despite a spot fire - initially reported at around 10 acres - that broke out to the north of Road 620 on Sunday evening, forcing pre-evacuation advisories. Olow said that side of the fire was being considered “stable.”
The fire started Aug. 29 near Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, to the north of Oakhurst, and began to burn towards Fish Camp and other areas.
Staff at Tenaya Lodge said they were hoping to reopen as soon as possible, and were making assessments each day to determine when that could happen. The lodge, other locations like Narrow Gauge Inn and the railroad and all homes and cabins in Sugar Pine and Fish Camp, were evacuated Aug. 29.
Two shelters are available in Oakhurst, at the Oakhurst Community Center (39800 Road 425B) and at Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church (39696 Highway 41).
Small animals are being accepted at the Oakhurst Community Shelter, and Mariposa SPCA Building.
Large animals are being taken at the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds, similar to the Detwiler Fire in July. Tanner Tweed can be contacted there at (559) 994-2794.
The cause of the Railroad Fire remains under investigation.
Smoky effects from several fires burning in the Mountain Area, from Mariposa to North Fork, forced cancellation of classes at most schools in Eastern Madera County Tuesday.
For more information on the Railroad Fire, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5553/, or call (559) 373-0040.