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Serpa Fire nears full containment Monday

Submitted to Sierra Star

A vegetation fire sparked shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday in the Coarsegold area forced evacuations near Mudge Ranch Road (420) and grew to an estimated 80 acres with 70% containment by mid Friday afternoon.

The fire started close to Highway 41 and Serpa Canyon Road, north of Coarsegold.

No structures have been damaged and there have been no injuries.

Cal Fire spokeswoman Jaime Williams said the fire began at 12:53 p.m. and is burning in oak woodland and moving into surrounding timber.

By 7 p.m. Thursday, mandatory evacuations were in place across much of the Coarsegold area. Around 9 p.m., they were lifted, for residents only with proof of identification, along: Romero Lane, Road 420, Sundance Drive, Sunset Drive, Sunset Place, Thornberry Ponds Lane, China Creek Way, Mudge Ranch Road, Mudge Ranch Lane, Barcus Circle, Barcus Court, Thornberry Summit Road, Falcon View Lane, Falcon View Road, Cedar Mountain Lane, and Los Arboles on the east side of Highway 41 between The Broken Bit and Road 420.

By 5 p.m., Friday, all restrictions will be lifted and the public will be able to access roads south of Paulsen, previously closed to all but homeowners.

“Firefighters did an excellent job stopping the forward progress of this fire while handling the obstacles they were faced,” Williams added, “the tree mortality, deep rugged terrain, and thick vegetation. Law enforcement also did an excellent job with evacuations and getting everyone out safely.”

Valerie and Ken Adkins have lived in their retirement home off Barcus Court about 10 years. For them, it was never a question of if, but when.

“I was watching television, when I heard something outside,” Valerie said. “I looked out the back window and saw the smoke ... I yelled to Ken, ‘we need to get out of here.’”

The couple were prepared, with pet carriers lining the hallway. Ken turned off the propane, moved the gas barbecue away from the home, brought in the flammable cushions, while Valerie loaded the last cat into the back seat.

“This is really all we can do, besides pray,” Valerie said. “With all the dead trees, I thought if there was a fire, and one of those trees goes, we’ll have a firestorm. Even though we’re prepared, when you see this (as she looks out at the spreading and darkening sky just past her rooftop), it’s like a punch to the stomach.”

The Adkins, along with their two dogs and two cats, have been invited to stay with friends until given the okay to return home.

Neighbor Roger Schneider calmly loaded the trunk of his car with as many keepsakes as he could. It was neighbor helping neighbor, with Valerie asking how she could help out, and loading a few photos for Schneider.

Schneider said he can’t worry about things he can’t control, and this fire was one of those things. With a stucco home and inflammable roof, he feels pretty confident his home will be safe.

On a more serious note, as a DC10 flew close overhead to drop its load, from his back deck, he quietly said with gratitude in his voice, “These tankers have made a huge difference in fighting fires.”

“I love our firefighters, and our sheriffs,” Valerie added. “They do an amazing job.”

Numerous engines, hand crews, water tenders, dozers, several air attack helicopters, and at least six air tankers are battling the flames. Some 300 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, and a reported 400 people were evacuated during the initial hours of the fire.

The Serpa Fire is located in a similar area as the 103-acre ‪Broken Fire sparked July 4 on Veater Ranch property.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.