Carstens Fire blamed on unattended campfire

June 17, 2013 12:27:16 AM PDT
The Mariposa County Board of Supervisors declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as fire crews continue to battle the growing fire.

Cal Fire is now saying the cause of the wildfire near Midpines was an unattended campfire. That fire has burned 1,600 acres and forced about 1,900 people to evacuate their homes. An investigation is still ongoing, but authorities say the fire demonstrates the need for people to practice fire safety during dry forest conditions.

Cal Fire says the fire started around noon on Sunday at the bottom of Plum Bar Creek in Mariposa County -- and the fire is currently burning in Clarks Valley.

Firefighters say the fire is exhibiting extreme behavior including fire whirls -- a tornado-like rotating column of air -- and strong adverse winds. They say the biggest challenge is predicting the low humidity and down canyon winds.

Authorities say they are using bulldozers, fire engines and aircraft to fight the fire. Direct line construction is the primary tactic being used but they are also setting backfires when condition permit.

Authorities said one person has been injured as a result of the fire. Officials have not said if the injured person is a firefighter to a civilian.

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FIRE DETAILS - updated at 6:55 p.m. Wednesday 6/19/2013

Name: Carstens Fire

County: Mariposa County

Location: Off Carstens Rd., east of 140 in the Midpines area.

Fire Details: 1,621 acres - 40% containment

Structures Threatened: Approx. 150 homes

Evacuations:

  • Hites Cove
  • Jerseydale
  • Clarks Valley
  • Mariposa Pines
  • Residents on the north side of Triangle Rd. from HWY 140 to Darrah Rd.

*** After 8 p.m. approx. 700 residents will be allowed back into the Lushmeadow area, ID required ***

Evacuation Center:
Mariposa Elementary School -- Jose Street near 7th Street

Livestock and other large animals can be taken to the Mariposa County Fairgrounds
To donate to the SPCA to care for evacuated animals, click here

Road Closures:

  • Triangle Rd at Hwy 140
  • Carlton Rd. at Triangle Rd.
  • Silva Rd. at Triangle Rd.
  • Triangle Rd. at Darrah Rd.

Cause: Human - unattended campfire

Total Fire Personnel: 1,223

Information Line:
(209) 966-4784
The public can additionally call (209) 966-1133 for recorded emergency services information.

Conditions:

There is a combination of hand and dozer line around the north end of the fire; firefighters are improving the line while mopup actions continue. The biggest growth for the fire has been in the Jerseydale and Hites Cove areas. Lowered temperatures overnight have helped with making progress. If temperatures are similar tonight, continued gains are expected. On the southwest side of the fire, the fire backed downslope toward the constructed dozer lines burning pockets of green fuel between the fire line and the fire. This is favorable for containment goals.

The fire has been determined to be human caused. An unattended campfire was not fully extinguished. Continued vigilance and fire safety during dry forest conditions is required.?

Evacuation centers have been established for displaced residents and livestock and pets. Residential evacuation center is the Mariposa Elementary School, and animal evacuation center is at the Mariposa Fairground.?


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Fire officials said the focus for Tuesday is to protect lives, get people evacuated, and save structures.

Fire crews made many drops Monday evening to try get a handle on the mountains up in flames. So far the fire has ripped through more than 1,600 acres of rugged terrain. The aftermath is scorched trees, charred brush, and black burned soil.

Jarrod Twist and so many others who live near here are under mandatory evacuations now they hope to get their animals to safety. "We are just going to get the horse out of the way for now. We will hopefully be able to come back for the cows if they fire is not here."

Monday evening more than 800 firefighters were on the front lines. Their biggest challenge is the windy conditions and fast burning dry forest.

"The air tankers and helicopters are a wonderful addition. Every tool in the tool box helps," said Karen Guillemin, Cal Fire Spokesperson.

Action News reporters witnessed several firefighters chopping and spraying down burned trees to put out hotspots. Only miles way some are still finding shelter at mariposa elementary school.

"I'm okay, it's kind of blurry right now, a little scary right now, our kids are little are a little scared, we are just trying to stay strong for them," said Tammy Redfern, resident.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at Mariposa Elementary School. If you have large animals you can take them to the Mariposa Fairgrounds.

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Stay with Action News and ABC30.com for more on this story.


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