Mariposa residents return home as firefighters gain ground on Detwiler Fire

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Thousands of firefighters continue to battle the Detwiler Fire in Mariposa County, but now they have it at 40 percent containment. (KFSN)

Thousands of firefighters continue to battle the Detwiler Fire in Mariposa County. So far, the six-day blaze has burned more than 75,000 acres, and currently, threatens 1,500 structures.

There are no signs of the Detwiler Fire in Mariposa, but it is still going on up north near the town of Coulterville. However, it is allowing the folks in this historic town the opportunity to return to reality.

Darren Osterhout is the store clerk of Grizzly Gas in Mariposa, and he couldn't help but show his support for the firefighters who came in to get something to drink.

For three days, the Mariposa County local was out of work as the raging Detwiler Fire threatened other businesses and homes in the area.

"I was concerned that the town was going to burn down," he said.

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But it didn't, and signs of that are shown from the number of cars lining down Main Street and even cars driving through the historic part of the town Saturday.

However, the intense inferno is responsible for destroying 60 homes and 63 other structures - creating a devastating loss for some in the community.

Osterhout says a few of those people are his friends.

"They lost their home," he said. "They're pretty much homeless good people. That hurts me you know."

Overnight, the fire grew just over 1,000 acres to 75,500 acres, and on day six it is now 40 percent contained.

"We're throwing everything they have at this fire to slow it down," firefighter Jordan Motta said.

Motta says with temperatures reaching triple digits crews will continue to work around the clock.

"We have the resources and plans in place to account for that," he said. "We have crews assigned working 24 hours on the line. They get 24 hours of work, 24 hours of rest."

And as they use helicopters, air tankers and over 500 engines to get the job done, people in towns like Mariposa are letting them know how much they are appreciated.
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Hundreds of people attended a Cal Fire community meeting, and some say though they did not get all the answers they were hoping for.

Hundreds of people also attended a Cal Fire community meeting, and some say though they did not get all the answers they were hoping for.

But they are comforted in knowing firefighters are making great progress toward getting the Detwiler Fire fully contained. Bottled waters were passed out and fans were moving inside the warm auditorium at Mariposa High School.

But the lack of air did not bother these residents. They were here for a community meeting to learn more about the devastating fire that stormed through their town.

On this projector screen, Cal Fire had detailed maps up pinpointing areas in the clear and areas that still need more work.

"I thought it was very informative," Suzette Prue said.

Prue lives in Morman Hills. She says in her lifetime, a wildfire here has never gotten this bad.

"I lived here during the Telegraph Fire, but this is double the size of the Telegraph Fire," she said. "This is huge. This is one for the record books."

Cal Fire's unit chief for Mariposa Nancy Koerperich says it could have been a lot worse if it were not for the 500,000 gallons of retardant dropped in one day and defensible spaces that many neighbors created.

"It was a very big help," she said. "Because the fire burned right up to their homes, but because they had great defensible space around it, the fire was able to lay down so firefighters could get in there and knock it down."

And Terry Selk is grateful for the work the more than 4,500 fighters have been putting in. He says it has saved not only homes, but also lives.

"Without them coming from all over the state, putting their lives on the line, saving our time, saving our homes, without the resources, we would not be standing here," he exclaimed.

Roughly 3,000 firefighters are working overnight near Coulterville to put a control line around that area. And PG&E says when this fire first broke out, 11,000 customers were without power, but now it is down to about 2,000 who still need their services restored.

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