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Willow Fire 30% contained

Firefighting officials updated a packed crowd of more than 125 citizens Tuesday night on efforts to combat the Willow Fire, and while the work remains difficult, there was at least one positive note.

By the time the meeting ended around 8:30 p.m., incident commander David Cooper said the blaze was 30% contained.

Per public information officers, the cost of the Willow Fire reached $4.6 million Tuesday night.

The wildfire, sparked Saturday around 2 p.m. near Road 274 and Central Camp Road was estimated at 1,739 acres and 5% contained heading into Tuesday night's meeting inside the North Fork Town Hall.

Total burned acreage remained the same by the end of the meeting, but Cooper said thanks to the stalwart work of some 1,215 firefighters handling split divisions of the inferno, strong progress had been made on its eastern and western sides.

The most difficult areas remain at the northern and southern ends of the blaze, Cooper said, where a spot fire near the southern edge jumped across a fire retardant line late Monday night.

“We're doing our best,” Cooper told the crowd. “Our safety is priority number one, and we're working the roads, we're monitoring campgrounds, and we're staying as involved and active as possible.”

After a relatively brief update with details largely the same as previous days given the fire's paths focused largely to the northeast and southeast directions, officials from the U.S. Forest Service, Madera County Sheriff's Department, and Cal Fire took questions from the audience.

Some of many questions came from residents in the Cascadel Woods, located to the fire's south which remains under an evacuation advisory, and other affected areas.

Lisa Stoltzner, who lives about two miles south of the wildfire's origin point near Malum Ridge (Road 274) north of the dump, said she's watched the conflagration from her bay window every day.

She asked what would happen if the fire continued to spread south towards both Cascadel Woods and near her home.Cooper and other officials said if the wildfire continues south, residents would be evacuated once the flames get closer to contingency points, or lines where firefighters may institute backdrafts to try and halt the blaze's progress.

Stoltzner, said the answer “proved her suspicions right,” in that though firefighters are working incredibly hard, they're still having trouble containing the wild flames.“They're doing whatever they can, however they can,” Stoltzner said. “They're very hard workers, if it wasn't for them I don't know what we would do.”

Stoltzner added, along with numerous members of the audience including Assemblyman Frank Bigelow and Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, her undying thanks for the work of the firefighters and all other staff involved in containing the Willow Fire.

Officials asked everyone to sign up for the “MC Alert” system, which issues critical warnings countywide for fires and other issues. Some residents said the system has had a few glitches along the way, but it has proven largely successful.

For information, visit www.mcalert.org or call (559) 675-7770 to sign up.

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