Due to a vegetation fire early Friday afternoon, Sept.5, Highway 49 was closed from Ponderosa Basin to the Madera County line. Chowchilla Mountain Road is open to evacuees only. It is unknown at this time when the roads will reopen.
The fire - named the Bridge Fire - started about 12:39 p.m., near the William Sell Bridge between Mariposa and Nipinnawasee, and quickly burned 50 acres. Because of the threat to several homes, an estimated 2,500 Ponderosa Basin and Harris Cutoff Road residents have been evacuated.
Woodland Elementary School and Mariposa County High School students who live in the Ponderosa Basin area are being asked to stay on local campuses until family members can pick them up. If needed, parents can call Woodland at (209) 742-0310, or the high school at (209) 742-0260.
Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at New Life Christian Fellowship Church on Cole Road near the intersection of Highway 49 South and Darrah Road. Small animals are being evacuated to this site, and larger animals are being evacuated to the Mariposa Fairgrounds.
Several Cal Fire crews and engines responded to the scene, as well as a DC-10 from Merced, and three helicopters. About 3 p.m., the fire gained ground and was becoming more volatile as it headed towards the southerly end of the basin, and by 4 p.m., it had burned 150 acres 10 miles east of Mariposa.
The public is advised to use alternate routes and/or to expect delays on Highway 49. Call Cal Trans automated road conditions line at (800) 427-ROAD (7623) for the latest road conditions.
For fire information, call (209) 966-1133.