Chandy Stafford, a Cascadel Woods resident, was in True Value Home Center when she received the evacuation notice. She raced home, grabbed her two dogs, the three dogs she was caring for, a small duffle bag of clothes, a few family photos and her phone charger. Flames were once again threatening the little enclave.
“I raced those flames up the mountain, barely got in and out,” Stafford said. “There was no time to press ‘one’ that I received their alert,” and so her landline and cell phones kept ringing as she packed up her car.
She turned off her car’s air conditioning and closed all of the vents. She describes the heat from the flames making her and the five dogs feel like baked potatoes in an oven as she drove through the flames.
“I couldn’t believe that nothing was melted on the car,” she said.
Her emergency duffle bag was already packed as the Cascadel Woods residents have been through the drill before, most recently with the Willow Fire in July and August, 2015.
She credits the work the community has done to create a defensible space for allowing firefighters to save as many structures as they did. After the Willow Fire, grants were applied for and used to remove dead trees and other fuels.
All of the residents expressed gratitude for the work the firefighters did to protect homes. After residents were allowed to return on Friday morning, firefighters were still in the area cleaning up retardant, offering residents bottled water and goodie bags filled with sandwiches, cookies, crackers and a fig bar.
“There must have been 20 items in that little bag,” she said, posting a photo of the contents on her Facebook page along with photos of the flames leaping into the air just five days before as she evacuated from Cascadel Woods.
“We’re really grateful,” she said. “God kept his hand over Cascadel.”
As of Saturday morning the fire had burned 1,035 acres, and is 65% contained. Total personnel on the fire is 1,479, along with 107 engines, 15 water tenders, five helicopters, nine dozers, and 33 hand crews.. All traffic control points were lifted this morning at 10 a.m..
Mission Fire information number is (559) 492-6314.
NOTE: To assist residents returning to their homes, the Madera County Public Works Department has set up locations for food waste only. Those returning after the Mission Fire may utilize the North Fork Transfer Station, 33699 Road 274.