Cedar Valley residents return home - “It was stressful not knowing day to day if you would have a house to come back to”

A sign near the entrance to Cedar Valley reflects the feelings of the residents of Cedar Valley and surrounding areas.
A sign near the entrance to Cedar Valley reflects the feelings of the residents of Cedar Valley and surrounding areas. Sierra Star

Nearly 270 people were allowed to return to 135 homes in Cedar Valley Sunday afternoon, after the Railroad Fire forced a Sept. 3 mandatory evacuation of the subdivision.

The subdivision, with one road in and one road out, is off Highway 41 north of Oakhurst.

Only residents of Cedar Valley will be allowed to enter the area during the first 24 hours of the opening. The sheriff department’s checkpoint on Cedar Valley Road is expected to be open to all motorists about noon Monday.

Pete and Robin Buck-Friis built a new 1,600 square-foot, three bedroom, two bath home six years ago on Lakeside Lane next to Lewis Creek. The couple have done a good job creating defensible space around their house.

Pete’s family has owned the property since 1960.

“We had a great fundraising barbeque for our Cedar Valley Fire Department on Sept. 2, and the very next day we had to evacuate because of the fire,” Pete said. “We have a lot of ash to clean up - if we had a wooden shake roof instead of a composite roof, we probably would have lost the house.”

Pete and Robin stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Clovis during the evacuation. It made it easy for Robin who is a hairstylist at Progressive Hair in Clovis.

“We can’t say it enough how thankful and appreciative we are to all the firemen and those bulldozer operators who worked day and night to protect all the homes in Cedar Valley,” Robin said.

Upon returning home, one resident found a burnt piece of tree bark, two-feet long on the roof of his garage.

“I’m glad I have a composite roof instead of wood shingles, or this garage probably would have been burnt down, and that fire would have jumped to our house.”

Fire engine crews from Bakersfield, Salinas, and Fresno were waiting for the homeowners to return, offering to help them unload all the belongings they packed-up when evacuated.

Fire crews were also starting fire line suppression repair - repairing or improving land damaged during fire suppression and line construction activity.

As of Sunday, the Railroad Fire, which started Aug. 29, had burned 12,358 acres and is 70% contained.

Resource Advisors from the Forest Service have identified the extent of suppression repair needed. Those repairs can vary depending upon the intended use of the affected area after the fire. Resource Advisors identify natural and cultural resources which may have been impacted during the Railroad Fire.

Deer season opens Sept. 16

Deer season opens Sept. 16, and fire officials are urging all hunters to check with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding emergency closures of public hunting areas. Visit CDFW’s website for zone-specific information, www.wildlife.ca.gov.

It was ‘reckless shooting’ that started the 81,000 acre Detwiler Fire in Mariposa County.

With the southern Sierra wildfire season extending into early fall, hunters should be aware that fire restrictions are in place as the hunting season begins. This may affect hunters’ usual routine in their favorite hunting areas.

Hunters can also follow the Sierra National Forest on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SierraNF and Like the Sierra National Forest on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SierraNF. Website is www.fs.usda.gov/sierra.com. Details: (866) 632-9992.

Hunters should remember that:

Campfires are prohibited.

Smoking is restricted to inside vehicles.

Driving is limited to agency designated roads and trails only.