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Mariposa evacuated as Detwiler Fire approaches; highways 49, 140 closed

Residents evacuate Mariposa, CA ahead of wildfire

The city of Mariposa was placed under evacuation orders shortly after noon Tuesday as the Detwiler Fire crept closer.
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The city of Mariposa was placed under evacuation orders shortly after noon Tuesday as the Detwiler Fire crept closer.

The city of Mariposa was placed under evacuation orders shortly after noon Tuesday as the Detwiler Fire crept closer and continued to roar out of control as it burned towards the town from Lake McClure.

In the latest update from Cal Fire on Tuesday evening, 25,000 acres have burned with only 5% of the blaze contained, as eight structures have been destroyed and another damaged. Click here for that update.

Firefighters faced difficulties obtaining resources throughout the day as Cal Fire and other agencies battled at least a dozen active blazes across the state.

At noon, evacuations were ordered along Highway 49 north from Agua Fria Road to Highway 140, in the center of Mariposa, along with all feeder roads. At least nine hotels in that area were evacuated.

Joan Balarge was one of the first to experience the effects as ash rained from the sky. When she arrived to Mariposa Shipping Company to ship a package, she saw the shop, and nearly all other businesses on Mariposa’s main street, were already closed.

“It’s so darn dry now, it’s really terrifying,” said Balarge, who lives between Mariposa and Oakhurst on Triangle Road. “I’ve lived through these very recently and every time it’s just scary. I really hope they get this under control.”

But only a few short hours later, evacuations had been ordered in the Ben Hur, Agua Fria, Mount Bullion, Guadalupe Mountain, and Yaqui Gulch areas of Mariposa County as the inferno continued to spread its uncontrolled wrath towards the southeast.

Highway 49 was closed north of Mariposa at the Highway 140 junction up to Highway 132 in Coulterville. Highway 140 was closed from that point to nine miles east of the Mariposa/Merced county border. Additional closures along both highways were put in place in all affected evacuation areas, as well as any interior roadways.

By Tuesday afternoon, the fire had claimed 19,600 acres and was 5% contained as more than 780 firefighters worked to try and control the raging blaze. Several power outages were reported, with at least one still in effect by 7:30 p.m. in the Bear Valley area directly east of Lake McClure. Power lines that serve Yosemite National Park were also affected.

Early Tuesday morning, the fire was estimated to cover 15,500 acres. In the latest update at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, at least one structure was damaged, and another destroyed, but some Cal Fire officials estimated those numbers may rise.

The Red Cross moved an evacuation shelter from a Mariposa location to Caesar Chavez Junior High at 161 S. Plainsburg Road in Planada. Two more shelters were set up in Oakhurst - at the Evangelical Free Church, 50443 School Road (427), and the Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, 39696 Highway 41.

Anyone with large animals can call Belinda at the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds, where an evacuation shelter has been established, at (559) 676-3702.

A community meeting about the fire was rescheduled for Wednesday, with details to come.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Management Agency, or FEMA, authorized the use of federal funds to assist in trying to save Mariposa shortly after it was placed under evacuation. A short time later, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Mariposa County as the fire continued to approach the historic city.

Over scanner reports, firefighters called for numerous additional Very Large Air Tankers and at least 10 additional strike teams purely for structure defense.

Jake Gorba, affiliated with Our Heroes Dreams, is reaching out to anyone in the Mariposa area who need assistance evacuating. They can contact him at (559) 760-8849.

This story will be updated continuously as details are obtained.

For live video of the evacuation, visit www.facebook.com/TheSierraStar.

For the most updated official reports from Cal Fire on the Detwiler Fire, including road closures and evacuations, click here. Cal Fire’s Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit also provides a 24-hour fire information line, with a live volunteer, by dialing 1-844-MMU-FIRE (1-844-668-3473).

For an interactive map of the fire’s perimeter and where it is spreading, courtesy of Joseph Elfelt at mappingsupport.com, click on this link.

Evacuated areas

Evacuations were underway Tuesday in:

Town of Mariposa;

Mount Bullion area;

Mount Bullion Ridge Road, from Highway 49 north to CYA Road;

Old Toll Road between Corbett Creek and Highway 49 north, including Corbett Creek Road; Mount Gains Road to No. 9 Road;

Mount Bullion Cutoff Road to Agua Fria Road from Highway 49 north to Highway 140; Highway 49 north to Baxby Ridge Road to Agua Fria Road;

Highway 49 north from Mount Bullion Ridge Road to Old Toll Road;

Pendola Garden Road form Highway 49 north to Old Toll Road;

Most of the Midpines area, down to Briceburg.

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