Firefighters continue to gain hold of Detwiler Fire, with 70% contained

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The Detwiler Fire in Mariposa County continues its slow rate of expansion in a positive sign it will soon be under complete containment.

The blaze grew by 1,000 acres throughout Wednesday, to a total of 81,250 acres and is now 70% contained, Cal Fire reported.

During the day, fire behavior was reportedly minimal within the fire’s perimeter, with mop-up operations planned throughout the night to strengthen containment lines.

“Steep and rugged terrain makes access difficult in some areas, but firefighters are making good progress,” Cal Fire reported in its evening release.

The number of destroyed and damaged homes remained the same from previous days, with 63 lost to the flames and 13 damaged. One commercial structure has been destroyed, with 67 minor structures also burned and eight damaged.

On assignment are 4,279 personnel, with 343 engines, 19 helicopters, multiple air tankers, 105 hand crews, 60 water tenders, and 47 bulldozers, Cal Fire reported.

In another favorable sign, Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced Wednesday it has begun to demobilize its base camp staged near the Mariposa-Yosemite Airport.

“Since the fire began, more than 11,000 customers lost electric service due to fire damage, and more than 500 PG&E workers and contractors responded,” PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles said in a release. “They worked in difficult terrain, challenging environmental conditions and amidst ongoing fire suppression efforts to help our customers return to a more normal life.”

Boyles said that work isn’t finished, as the company is reaching out to any and all customers whose homes or businesses were affected during the blaze, to ensure repairs can be completed and service restored.

The company has also made a $15,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help in disaster relief efforts, Boyles said.

“We greatly appreciate the work of our partners at Cal Fire, the Mariposa County Sheriff, the California Highway Patrol, the Red Cross and every other public safety and community agency that responded to fight this fire and assist their customers,” Boyles said. “We are proud to work at their side.”

The Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster group, from Eastern Madera-Mariposa counties, said it’s also organized a “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” event Aug. 9. Mountain Area residents are encouraged to go visit Mariposa’s businesses as they recover from sluggish sales after being forced to close their doors under July 18 evacuation orders that were lifted July 21.

Additional evacuation orders were also lifted Wednesday, including in the Greeley Hill area near Coulterville north of Mariposa. Visit http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents/incidentdetails/Index/1672 for the full list, or call 1-844-MMU-FIRE (668-3473).

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, with an expected containment date of Aug. 5. Fire information officials estimated the cost of fighting the Detwiler Fire at $45.2 million so far, with a projected final cost of $60 million.

Thieves and scammers reported

Not all news from Wednesday was positive, however.

Merced police confirmed to the Merced Sun-Star that while firefighters slept in their hotels after 24-hour shifts, someone has been stealing their equipment. At least two radios, two firefighting helmets, and an Apple iPhone were reported stolen from trucks at Merced’s Best Western Inn, while an engine at Quality Inn in Santa Nella was pried open. Thieves stole hand-held radios, navy blue class B uniforms with names and patches, a weather meter, boots, pants, helmets, and a spare key to the engine.

“These are items that the firefighters use while on duty trying to protect lives as well as protect properties,” Mariposa County Capt. Bimley West said. “It’s a shame that (to) these thieves there’s nothing sacred to them.”

Anyone with information on the Santa Nella crime is asked to call (209) 710-6005 or the 24-hour dispatch line at (209) 385-7445.

To report information to Merced police, call (209) 385-2453.

PG&E also warned that some customers affected by the Detwiler Fire have been receiving threatening phone calls about disconnecting their power unless payment is made.

Boyles said any such calls, which demand personal information such as a credit card number, are scams.

Anyone with concerns is welcome to call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000.

Residents are urged to use caution while driving in Mariposa County, as fire equipment is still staged throughout the area.