FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) --A section of Highway 198 near Coalinga re-opened Thursday afternoon as crews battle a wildfire that's burned 7,050 acres and is 70 percent contained.
Officials said the area off Coalinga Mineral Springs Road is the heel of the Mineral Fire. In other words, it's already passed through and crews are continuing to mop up what's left.
Since the fire started, boots on the ground have been aided by helicopters doing water drops and air tankers spraying retardant.
"We've been very lucky that we've had a good amount of aircraft available, and it did make a huge difference because of the inaccessibility," said Brandon Vaccaro, Mineral Fire Information Officer.
Firefighters are working 24-hour shifts in hot weather conditions. Vaccaro says they're also dealing with steep and rough terrain. But many areas of the fire are just too hard to reach from the ground.
"What they're doing is utilizing the helicopter to assist them where they don't have good access or can't get a hose line in."
The mineral fire has burned almost 7,050 acres, which included a 2,000 acre controlled burn Wednesday night. It has forced evacuation orders and warnings and shut down a major portion of Highway 198 for two days before reopening Thursday morning. It has also affected air quality.
"We're into August now, you know, we're getting into the middle of August. It's been a long time since we've had rain. We had drought conditions before fire season ever started and the conditions just continue to get worst obviously," said Vaccaro.
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mike Mohler said crews are cautiously optimistic about this fire. But they're concerned with triple digit temperatures over the next couple of days. The fire has already been wild and unpredictable.
"The explosive fire growth that we talk about now, unfortunately, is the new normal for firefighters. Three-thousand acres, in the evening, when you normally have the humidity. That's what we're seeing, not only here on the mineral fire, but statewide."
This isn't the first fire of the season for most crews working on the Mineral Fire. And no matter when they leave, it's almost guaranteed it won't be their last.
So far, one residence and one outbuilding have been destroyed. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Mineral Fire Information
An Evacuation Order is in place for Coalinga Mineral Springs Road.
Red Cross Evacuation Center has been set up at West Hills College, 300 W. Cherry Lane, Coalinga, CA.
For Large and Small Animal Evacuation assistance, call 559-433-9663.
Structures Threatened: 0
Structures Destroyed: 2 (1 residence, 1 outbuilding)
Location: off Hwy 198 & Mineral Springs Rd, W of Coalinga
Cause: Under Investigation
Acres Burned - Containment: 7,050 acres - 70% contained.
Total Fire Personnel: 1,773