As containment on Railroad Fire grows, residents learn when they'll be able to return home

Fresno, Calif. (KFSN) -- People are one step closer to going home. The Madera County Sheriff says he is estimating all residents evacuated by the Railroad Fire should be able to go back sometime this weekend.

RELATED: Tentative timeline for Railroad Fire repopulation and HWY 41

People who have been forced from their homes by the lingering Railroad Fire gathered at a community meeting in Oakhurst Thursday night and learned things are looking up.

The U.S. Forest Service says the first round of people to go back home will be Sky Ranch residents--where evacuation orders are expected to be lifted by 5 p.m., Friday. They say Sugar Pine residents will follow those orders and are expected to lift by 3 p.m., Saturday. A round of applause followed the news-- residents have been anxiously waiting to hear.

Officials also said Highway 41 is set to reopen Saturday at 5 p.m. to everyone, but the one area they are still waiting for an exact time and day on is Cedar Valley.

Greg Hart just moved to the area one year ago.

"I'm 56 and I've never been through anything like this before and it was just kind of a scary feeling, it really was," said Hart.

The Forest Service says the fire is still burning east of that community but crews should have a handle on it soon.

Hart was one of the residents lined up to receive a permit from the Madera County Sheriff's Department to get into the communities quicker once evacuation orders are lifted.

"So far it's going smoothly they're issuing permits for people to go back into Fish Camp and Cedar Valley to expedite the process when we can go back we think we can go back Saturday or Sunday," said Hart.

People showed their drivers license and a document with their home address for proof of residency, a process they would normally have to go through as they are driving in since these communities are usually closed off only to residents for the first 24 hours.

"We want to make sure our residents are ready to go home as fast as we can so with the passes it moves that process along much faster," said Joseph Wilder, Madera County Sergeant.
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