Creek Fire disrupts holiday weekend plans for many families, evacuations underway

Sunday, September 6, 2020
Why fire crews are having a tough time fighting the Creek Fire
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Hundreds of firefighters have responded to the Creek Fire north of Shaver Lake, but are up against high heat, heavy fuels, and dangerous terrain.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As the Creek Fire burns in Fresno and Madera Counties, many have had to adjust their Labor Day weekend plans.

The fire has spread to 36,000 acres as of Saturday night, and threatens 3,000 structures.

RELATED: Creek Fire grows to 36,000 acres; hundreds rescued from Mammoth Pool Reservoir, many injured

Shaver Lake visitors had a front-row seat to the fire on Saturday.

"It's just crazy," said Chris Sandahl. "It's a beautiful sight but at the same time, very sad."

"I think the plan is to hang out and enjoy our time until something happens," said Jayson Dandurand. "If they tell us to leave, we're going to leave."

The area is under an evacuation warning.

Hundreds of firefighters responded to the fire but are up against high heat, heavy fuels, and dangerous terrain.

"It is steeper, it is thicker brush and heavier timbers," said CAL FIRE/ Fresno County Fire's Stacey Nolan.

Fire officials said dozers, engines, and aircraft are all being used to fight the blaze, which sent smoke billowing into the sky throughout the day.

RELATED: Terrified families flee surrounded by flames, return to destroyed homes

Mark Coleman was at his Big Creek vacation home when he saw the flames and decided it was time to go.

"To have this coming up the canyon at you is very startling," he said.

Before he packed his bags and took off, he took some proactive measures to protect his and his neighbor's property.

"We got the hoses out and sprayed down the neighborhood just in an abundance of caution," he said.

Jason Erickson was evacuated by authorities. He and his family were planning to spend the holiday weekend at their cabin in Big Creek.

He said the smoke was horrible.

"As soon as I opened the door to the sheriffs, it hit me in the face," he said. "All the smoke, the smell."

Erickson and his family got out of there quickly and were able to avoid traffic.

As people left the area, Highway 168 was backed up for miles.

Two evacuations sites were established. One is at Foothill Elementary in Prather, and another is at North Fork Elementary in North Fork.

A location in Oakhurst was on standby.

"As this continues to evolve, we are determining where it is best to position our volunteers where it is safest," said Nicole Maul with the American Red Cross.

The Central California Animal Disaster Team is also helping evacuees with their pets. The Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds have been designated as a large animal evacuation center.

The coronavirus has changed some procedures at evacuation shelters. People must wear masks and social distance.

Fresno County Sheriff's deputies have also been knocking on doors and telling people to leave, or be prepared to, since Friday night.

Sgt. Matt Hamilton said compliance has been good, though some are deciding to stay put.

Deputies also mobilized a team to help evacuate a group of people participating in an off-highway vehicle poker run near Bald Mountain.

"It's going to be difficult because people are going to be spread out all over the place up there. And there's a lot of places that aren't accessible by regular vehicles, so that's why we have to use our off-highway vehicles," said Hamilton.

He said he hopes everyone listens to their evacuation orders and warnings.

Because as hard as it may be to leave that Labor Day weekend getaway, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

"We don't want to have anybody stuck back and be seriously threatened by this incident," he said.