About 50 people were trapped for a time Sunday by a fire that broke out in a remote Madera County community.
The Mission Fire was the latest blaze to ignite in Madera County and further stretched firefighting resources.
A mandatory evacuation was issued by the Sheriff’s Department along Cain Drive, and Episcopal Conference Center was evacuated. A pre-evacuation advisory was also issued for Road 225 between Lark Lane and Italian Bar Road.
The blaze, reported about 1 p.m., reached 350 acres two hours later, and then an estimated 650 acres by 8 p.m. It threatened hundreds of homes in the Cascadel Heights area northeast of North Fork.
At least three structures were destroyed, officials confirmed. What kind of structures were lost was not yet known.
About 50 people were trapped for a half hour in a Cascadel subdivision, said Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, including his chief of staff. “She called me,” said Wheeler from his home in Cascadel Woods. “She said there’s no way out.” Wheeler said a sheriff’s deputy managed to get to the residents and evacuated them.
Wheeler watched the fire from his home, a mile and a half away from the flames.
Another fire broke out Sunday afternoon in a different location. In Bootjack in Mariposa County, firefighters reported the Peak Fire at about 50 acres. At least eight structures were threatened near India Peak.
To add firefighting help, crews were sent from Sanger, Selma, Clovis, Fresno and Fresno County fire departments.
Meanwhile, with the stubborn Railroad Fire about a mile from the northern edge of Cedar Valley, the Sheriff’s Department placed a mandatory evacuation notice on the 135 homes in the subdivision about 11 a.m. Sunday.
By 1 p.m., almost everyone had loaded their cars and trucks with valuables and left, exiting south on Highway 41 to Oakhurst.
The flames had jumped from the main fire over Forest Service Road 6590 heading south toward Cedar Valley through steep terrain with lots of trees and underbrush.
Cal Fire Southern Region Battalion Chief Frank Bigelow, standing with the five members of the Madera County Fire Department, said air tankers could not fly due to thick smoke. At least one helicopter worked the southern edge of the fire, and two bulldozers were brought in to cut a line above Cedar Valley.
Nancy Isaacs was moving quickly with her grandaughter Emily Jones and other family members to get into cars on Lakeside Drive.
“We have to hurry, we only have a short time to get out of here,” Isaacs said.
Roads included in the evacuation were: Cedar Valley Drive, Deer Run Trail Road, Lazy Oak Drive, Cedar Brook Road, Cedar Springs Road, Mountain Meadow Road and Chu Ranch Road.
Also, Tolladay Road, Jackson Road, Cedar Ridge Circle-North, Cedar Ridge Circle-South, Manzanita Drive, Three Springs Road, Lakeside Drive and Cedar Place and Sky Ranch Road.
An evacuation shelter was set up at the Oakhurst Community Center at 39800 Road 425B.
Highway 41 remains closed in the Cedar Valley area, in Madera and Mariposa counties. Routes between Beasore and Sky Ranch Drive are closed and Road 630 (Sugar Pine Road) and all cross streets, including Sugar Pine Christian Camp, are also closed.
Sky Ranch Road is closed at Buckskin, and forest roads west (north) of Sky Ranch Road are closed.
No traffic is allowed through to Yosemite National Park. Drivers are being detoured onto Highway 49 in Oakhurst along to the park’s entrance on Highway 140.
The Railroad Fire entered Nelder Grove on Friday, threatening 100 Giant Sequoia trees, some of which are thousands of years old, according to Raj Singh with the Railroad Fire information staff.
No trees had been destroyed as of Sunday morning, said Singh, but the fire is in the northern part of the grove, burning slowly southward. Flames are reaching parts of the forest that haven’t burned in 100 years, fire information staff said.
Crews were handling the fire as a full suppression blaze, Singh said, meaning they will put out the flames rather than let the forest burn naturally.
Sequoia trees have a thick outer bark that helps them resist flames. Fully grown trees can have bark that is two feet thick.
At 6,100 acres, the fire isn’t the largest burning in California, but it is close to homes and communities. Houses have been destroyed and historic sites threatened, such as Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, near where the fire ignited across Highway 41 last Tuesday.
As of Sunday afternoon, the blaze was 23 percent contained, with an estimated containment date of Sept. 15.
Caltrans crews will be cutting down “hazard” trees – those that pose a danger of toppling over – along Highway 41 into Fish Camp and into Yosemite. This work will take several days.
All residences and business in Fish Camp, including Tenaya Lodge, have been evacuated, and Nelder Grove, Big Sandy and Summerland campgrounds are closed.
South Fork update
The South Fork fire near Wawona was 47 percent contained Sunday.
It had burned 7,200 acres east of the Big Trees Lodge in Yosemite. It began Aug. 13, and its cause remains unknown.
Another fire was reported northeast of Mariposa.
The fire spread into vegetation after it was started inside a structure. The Cathedral Fire reportedly threatened at least three structures as it spread into four acres of vegetation about 6:30 p.m.
About 7 p.m., crews reportedly made strong progress on the fire, and it was remaining within containment lines.