Highway 41 closed for hours near Coarsegold as crews battle fire

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Drivers heading up and down Highway 41 near Coarsegold were left sitting in a significant traffic jam Wednesday after a bulldozer fighting a vegetation fire overturned.

As of Wednesday night, the fire only burned about six acres and was about 80% contained. Full containment is expected by Thursday morning, and there is no word yet what may have sparked it.

While the fire was relatively minor, the accident caused by fighting the fire caused a major traffic jam.

Jeff McKiney of Coarsegold told us he had been waiting for the highway to reopen for three hours.

Truck driver Gerald Schlageter traveled some 2,200 miles from Alabama to deliver furniture to a hotel in Oakhurst. The accident left him sitting on the side of the road in his big rig, less than 10 miles from his drop off.

"They told me I'd have to sit here until they open it back up. So it is what it is, I guess. Frustrating especially when you're on electronic logs and time is just ticking away."

Cal Fire says the veteran dozer operator, contracted to help firefighters, was on a steep hill when the machine flipped over.

Deputy Chief Mike Van Loben Sels said, "He was working up over the hill and did a slow roll over on its side."

While traffic on the highway was at a standstill, traffic inside Alfonso's Hideaway Mexican restaurant picked up. Employee Patty Shields said they went serving 20 customers to 70.

"People that actually live in Oakhurst and haven't stopped here before and they were quite delighted with the food and atmosphere."

Inside the restaurant, Action News caught up with two best friends of 30 years who seemed to be taking the delay in stride. They said it gave them a chance to, "Come have a margarita and taquitos and shoot the breeze."

A positive end to the day for them and the man inside the dozer who walked away uninjured.
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