Gold Fire burning in the O'Neals area of Madera County

May 1, 2013 12:19:55 AM PDT
Firefighters continue to battle a large wildfire in the Madera County community of O'Neals. It's now spread to 274 acres and is fully contained.

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5/1/2013 7am UPDATE
Name: Gold Fire
Location: Between Road 210 and Road 200 near Fine Gold Creek in the community of O'Neals
Status: 274 acres - 100% contained

Homeowner Mike Neal tells Action News, he came home from work only to find huge pummels of smoke above and around his hillside property. He also found his wife in a state of panic.

Neal said, "She saw the smoke coming up the hill and she was panicked because the road curves so from her perspective it was right on top of us."

For hours, hundreds of CALFIRE crews battled intense heat and hot dry winds. They fought the flames both from the ground and the air. Access was their biggest problem.

CAL FIRE Prevention Officer Darin McCully said, "There's some steep terrain and rocky outcroppings that bulldozers have trouble getting up and around."

Once crews could take a break from the rough terrain, Larry Wolford and the all-volunteer "Madera Support Unit" provided water, supplies, even a menu of food.

Wolford said, "They need a little recuperation after they've been working so hard in the heat."

The retired firefighter says, after 17 years on the force, it's time to return the favor. "The old support fed and watered me and I'm paying back I have to give to them what they gave me over the years."

Homeowners like Mike Neal say, they feel lucky. Were it not for the support crew and the fire crews on the ground and in the air, their hillside properties may not have survived.

Neal said, "I'm very thankful, thank you so much, thank you very much."

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