Central California wildfires cause evacuations, school closures

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Yosemite Unified School District has announced that Yosemite High School and all Oakhurst campuses are closed today. That includes those in the Bass Lake School District.

Six schools in the Chawanakee Unified School District will again re-open today after school officials asked kids to stay home two days ago.

Schools that are open say outdoor activities will also resume but air quality and heat related issues will be monitored by staff and coaches.



Burning in Madera and Mariposa counties, the Railroad Fire continues to restrict access to and from Yosemite National Park. Highway 41 remains closed in both directions from Cedar Valley to Yosemite National Park. Tree mortality and bark beetles continue to a pose a safety risk for fire crews along Highway 41.

Cal Trans crews are making sure they are taking advantage of these closures. Crews are cutting down dead trees near Sugar Pine while the roadway remains closed to traffic. Over the last 4 days, they have taken down around 250 trees.

The fire has destroyed 14 structures and 500 more are still threatened. Engines are protecting homes, while more helicopters and air tankers were ordered to help drop water.

Fire officials say the goal is to build stronger defense lines. If the weather holds up, they'll start working on getting stronger containment around the fire.

Railroad Fire information:

Size: 11,603 acres, 43 percent contained

There will be a public meeting on Thursday, September 7 at the Mountain Christian Center (40299 Highway 49) in Oakhurst at 7 pm on Thursday Fire officials will be on hand to answer any questions.

Firefighters continued to make progress toward containment yesterday on the west and north flanks of the fire. Burning operations around Cedar Valley were successful and also led to increased containment in that area. This will allow crews to shift their efforts to the east side of the fire south of Big Sandy to the Nelder Grove. Crews worked to establish a fire break around the spot fire near Road 620 and will continue that work today.

Thunderstorm risk is decreasing today and temperatures will be a bit lower, giving the firefighters a clear day to continue their work. Increased humidity assisted in slower fire activity through the night, however, trends in weather toward the weekend will shift to warmer and dryer temperatures. All evacuations remain in place. Hazard tree clearing will continue along Highway 41, and PG&E is working to re-establish electricity within the fire area.

Resources assigned to the fire include 16 hand crews, 8 helicopters, 95 engines, 14 dozers. Air support remains a critical part of the firefighting effort. Helicopters and tankers will support ground crews as conditions allow.



A room full of worried north fork residents attended a community meeting Wednesday night. Firefighters couldn't predict when it will be safe for them to go back home but said they are making progress.

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A big concern came from the North Fork Rancheria Tribe who said the fire has been burning near tribe sensitive areas.

A big concern came from the North Fork Rancheria Tribe, who say the fire has been burning near areas sensitive to the tribe. Their tribal archaeologist has been going out with fire crews to tell them what areas dozers need to be kept away from, to avoid disturbing the dirt on sacred land. So far they have seen some damage to areas from the fire but say it's minimal.

"They're just lands where people used to live a long time ago, hundreds of years ago. They're very strong places where they used to live in encampments," said Gaylen Lee, Tribal Archaeologist.

Firefighters said the damage assessment should have finished last night, and they should have updated numbers on destroyed or damaged homes by later this morning. So far 250 structures are still threatened, 4 homes are destroyed and 4 damaged.

Mission Fire Information

Size: 1,035 Acres, 25 percent contained

Mandatory: Cascadel Woods
Advisory: Benedict Meadow
Shelter: Oakhurst Community Center, 39800 Fresno Flats Road, Oakhurst

Road Closures:
Douglas Station Road at 225
Rainbow Drive at 225
Cascadel Drive at 225
California Vipassana Center 58503 Rd. 225

Structures Destroyed: 4
Structures Threatened: 250

Higher humidity and lack of wind kept fire behavior minimal overnight. Interior heavy fuels continued to burn and smolder. Fire perimeter growth was minimal. Limited access, steep terrain and heavy fuels continue to challenge firefighters on the incident. Tree mortality and dense fuel loads are contributing to isolated areas of fire activity and perimeter growth. The communities of Cascadel and North Fork, along with the Sierra National Forest, are still threatened and residents of approximately 250 homes continue to remain under mandatory evacuation orders. Damage Inspection teams have completed their assessments and PG&E will continue to work on restoring power to the affected areas.



The Tulare County Sheriff has now confirmed the Pier Fire near Springville started when someone set a stolen car on fire and pushed it over a cliff near Highway 190.

RELATED: Sheriff confirms cause of Pier Fire: Stolen car set on fire
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Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux confirms the Pier Fire started when someone set a stolen car on fire, and pushed it over the side of a cliff on Highway 190.

The fire started nine days ago in the Tule River Canyon and has burned nearly 21-thousand acres. It is now 25-percent contained. The fire has cost $14-million to fight so far.

The incident command post is at the Porterville Fairgrounds is home base to the majority of the more than 15-hundred people working to put out the fire.

Keeping firefighters cool is a priority, so the mobile sleeper company is on site.

"It gives them a nice night's rest so that they're more refreshed and able to do their job. It cuts down on injuries and sleep deprivation," said Kim Michaels, Mobile Sleeper Company

Many residents of Tulare County mountain communities, such as Camp Nelson and Pierpoint Springs, are still under a mandatory evacuation order. Highway 190 remains closed.

Pier Fire Information:

Size: 23,729 Acres, 30 percent contained

Mandatory: Sequoia Crest, Mountain Aire, Rogers Camp, Pierpoint Springs, Cedar Slope, Camp Nelson, Doyle Springs, Alpine Village, Wishon
Voluntary: Upper Rio Vista, Cow Mountain (Springville area)
Evacuation Center: Porterville College Student Center, 100 E. College Ave., Porterville. Call 661-324-6427 (weekdays) or 800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Road Closures:
Highway 190 east of Springville is closed at Upper Rio Vista Road to eastbound traffic.
Highway 190 north of Ponderosa is closed at Forest Road 21S50 to westbound traffic.
Residents only: Upper Rio Vista, Cow Mountain (Springville area)

Fire activity was moderate yesterday. The most active part of the fire was the southeast corner near Mountain Aire and Rogers Camp, although the fire did not grow significantly. The fire is east of Bateman Ridge down in the Wilson Creek drainage. The fire perimeter and control lines around Sequoia Crest and Wishon are holding.

Fire managers feel confident that the lines will hold the fire west and south of those communities. On the northwest side of the fire, crews hiked in to mop up firelines. Some portions of the fire's edge are inaccessible by ground crews. Aerial observers will monitor them for several days.

Around three o'clock yesterday afternoon, firefighters initiated firing operations on the southwest side near Upper Rio Vista, working southward toward Cow Mountain. Most of the smoke and increase in acreage today was due to this successful firing operation.

As a result, Tulare County Sheriff's Office downgraded the evacuation status of Springville and the surrounding communities (see below). Fire crews will be patrolling and monitoring the firelines tonight.



Fire officials say they are making good progress on the Peak Fire in Mariposa County. The flames are now 90 percent contained and all evacuation orders have been lifted.

The blaze forced hundreds from their homes Sunday after it started nine-miles southeast of Mariposa.
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