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Ben Fire near Mariposa grows to 400 acres, is 10% contained

A photo of the Ben Fire, sparked on June 28, 2017 south of Mariposa and west of Ahwahnee.
A photo of the Ben Fire, sparked on June 28, 2017 south of Mariposa and west of Ahwahnee. Submitted photo

A wildfire known as the Ben Fire grew to 400 acres by 11:30 p.m. Wednesday and was 10% contained with multiple road closures.

On Thursday, the fire reportedly grew to 630 acres, with 30% contained. Click here for more details.

Wednesday’s late night release updated earlier Cal Fire reports around 8 p.m. that the fire had burned 800 acres, and was 0% contained.

Firefighters, in radio reports, said progress was going well with retardant dropped by numerous air tankers holding a strong line around the blaze.

The inferno, burning in grassy fields and woodland areas, was reported shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Mormon Bar area of Mariposa County.

Initial scanner reports estimated the size of the Ben Fire around 10 acres, with moderate spread in gusty winds. Those estimates were updated around 5:30 p.m. to 400 acres, about a quarter mile from Bald Rock. More than five additional air tankers were called for around 4:30 p.m., with a host of accompanying personnel and equipment.

Four additional bulldozers were requested around 4:50 p.m.. Shortly before 9 p.m., 33 engine and truck companies, six fire crews, four water tenders, eight bulldozers, and 22 personnel in three helicopters and four air tankers were fighting the fire, according to a release sent by Jaime Williams, spokeswoman for Cal Fire’s Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit.

Fire personnel, through scanner reports, estimated the fire could grow up to 1,500 acres, mostly spreading to the northeast at a slow rate, with minimal to no threat to structures. Conditions could change due to wind or other factors, officials said, and it was reported the flames may shift southeast as evening winds set in.

The fire started in the 3100 block of Ben Hur Road, which is south of the main area of Mariposa and west of Ahwahnee. Smoke from the flames was reportedly impacting the surrounding area, including in Ahwahnee and Oakhurst. Those with sensitivities to particulate matter in the air were advised to stay indoors.

The California Highway Patrol closed Ben Hur Road at Buckeye Road shortly after 4:30 p.m. The entrance to Quick Ranch along Ben Hur Road was also closed at 11:30 p.m., with no immediate plans for reopening.

No evacuations were ordered, and no structures were immediately threatened, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office reported.

On call to respond were all available units, including multiple engines, tankers, helicopters, water tenders, and bulldozers.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

While not in the same area, the Ben Fire is among several fires that started in the Mountain Area this week.

On Tuesday, the Camp Fire was sparked along Central Camp Road near Bass Lake, above Road 274. Officials with the Sierra National Forest reported it was fully contained Wednesday morning.

Also Tuesday, a series of spot fires was sparked along Highway 41, from Road 208 near O’Neals to Road 420 at the bottom of Deadwood between Coarsegold and Oakhurst. Those fires were all quickly contained.

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