Several wildfires in the Central California mountains cause smoky air, threaten communities

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Firefighters are busy across the state, and in Central California, there are six major wildfires burning in and around our mountain communities.

Pier Fire

Progress continues to be made on the west side of the fire north of Springville. Additional containment was accomplished along the fire's perimeter east of Balch Park Road and should continue north towards Wishon Campground. Fire crews held the fire south of the control lines along Fox Farm Road between Wishon Campground and Sequoia Crest. They continue efforts to improve fireline and extinguish hot spots in and near the community of Sequoia Crest. No structures have burned, even though the fire's edge is within that community.

Concerns today is the fires edge south of Sequoia Crest to Highway 190 and further south towards Rogers Camp. Crews have prepped contingency lines and will fire out sections of unburned fuel between the active fires edge and contingency lines as weather and burning conditions allow. This will help to tie in those contingency lines to the main fireline and help secure that edge along Bateman Ridge.

Work on the southern edge of the fire, near the Tule River Indian Reservation and Rio Vista, will include firing out unburned fuel between the active fires edge and contingency lines. Contingency lines are typically roads, areas with minimal fuel, constructed hand and dozer lines, and places where natural barriers will help stop the spread of the fire. Ultimately, the fire's edge will be capable of stopping the fires spread once it reaches it. As the edge of the fire cools, and fire crews extinguish hot spots, additional containment will be achieved.

Size: 20,529 acres
Contained: 20 percent

RELATED: Some residents still waiting to return home as Pier Fire continues to burn in Tulare County
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More than a hundred evacuees filled a room at Porterville College to learn more about the raging Pier Fire in Tulare County.

Mandatory: Sequoia Crest, Mountain Aire, Rogers Camp, Pierpoint Springs, Cedar Slope, Camp Nelson, Doyle Springs, Alpine Village, Wishon

Voluntary: Upper Rio Vista and Cow Mountain (Springville).

Evacuation Center: Porterville College Student Center, 100 E. College Ave., Porterville. Call 661-324-6427 (weekdays) or 800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) Provide food, shelter, arrange for animal care, and other basic needs for evacuees.

Road Closures:
Closed to all traffic: Highway 190, east of Springville where it intersects with Balch Park Road. Western Divide Highway/HWY 190, west of Ponderosa, west of and including the North Road (FR 21S50).

Open only to residents: Balch Park Road from the intersection of HWY 190 to Yokohl Valley Road.

Railroad Fire

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The Railroad Fire has already burned dozens of structures near the community of Sugar Pine and now it is reaching historic trees.

The Railroad Fire burning in Madera and Mariposa County has now consumed 11,528 acres near Fish Camp and damaged the historic Sugar Pine Railroad. The fire has burned at least 5 structures and is threatening hundreds more this morning. It is 35 percent contained.

Highway 41 has been closed due to the fire and Caltrans crews are using the closure as an opportunity to cut down damaged trees that could fall onto the road. Hundreds of burned trees have been removed and there are hundreds more to go.
The fire has also destroyed more than a dozen structures and at least three homes. Hundreds of residents in the Cedar Valley and Sky Ranch area have been evacuated.

RELATED: Railroad Fire destroys 14 structures
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More people were forced to evacuate from the Sky Ranch Road and Cedar Valley areas after winds from a passing storm caused the fire to spread in just hours.

Current evacuation orders include Tenaya Lodge Resort, Sugar Pine, Calvin Crest, Paradise Springs, Cedar Valley and Sky Ranch. One Evacuation Advisory is in place. Some residents in Fish Camp were allowed to return to their homes on Tuesday.

Firing operations intended to aid in the protection of communities are ongoing. Efforts continue to contain the spot fire west of SR41 that occurred from the thunderstorm event Sunday afternoon. All evacuations in Madera County remain in place. The Oakhurst Community Center is sheltering those from both the Railroad Fire and the nearby Mission Fire. Current evacuation orders include Tenaya Lodge Resort, Sugar Pine, Calvin Crest, Paradise Springs, Cedar Valley and Sky Ranch. One Evacuation Advisory is in place. Caltrans and PG&E have begun to mitigate hazards along SR41 from Fish Camp south. Tree mortality continues to increase safety risk for personnel engaged on this fire. Medium range spotting is challenging constructed control lines slowing containment.

Mission Fire

Fire behavior remained slow overnight with isolated pockets of heavy fuels that continued to burn. Fire perimeter growth was minimal. Limited access, steep terrain, and heavy fuels continue to challenge firefighters on the incident. 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.

RELATED: 86-year-old describes moments before Mission Fire destroys home
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Just 15 minutes after evacuating his house Sunday, Warren Morgan watched from town as the fire tore through his hillside - leveling a home he once hand built down to cement blocks.

The fire has burned 1,005 acres and is 10 percent contained.

RELATED: Mission Fire threatens hundreds of homes near North Fork
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Fire crews from around the state started this holiday sweating, cutting lines and dumping water on the growing flames of the Mission Fire.

The fire has destroyed four structures, damaged another four structions, and another 250 structures are threatened.

Size: 1,025 acres, 12 percent contained

Road Closures:
Road 225: Douglas Station Road to Lark Lane
Road 233 and all spur roads
Douglas Station Road and all spur roads

Evacuation Centers at:
Oakhurst Community Center, 39800 Fresno Flats Road, Oakhurst
Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, 39696 Hwy 41, Oakhurst

Animal Shelters:
Large Animals: Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds, 44777 Rodeo Grounds Lane, Coarsegold
Small Animals: Oakhurst Community Center, 39800 Fresno Flats Road, Oakhurst

Peak Fire

Containment has jumped to 75 percent and so far a total of 680 acres have burned.

Hundreds were forced to evacuate on Sunday after the started near Indian Peak Road -- about nine miles southeast of Mariposa.

All evacuation orders have been lifted.

Empire Fire

The Empire Fire is burning near the Badger Pass Ski Area and the Bridalveil Creek Campground in Yosemite National Park. It has burned 4,914 acres and is 55 percent contained.

The following trail and area closures are in place until further notice:

- Glacier Point Road
- Bridalveil Campground
- Ostrander Trail
- Bridalveil Trail
- Alder Creek Trail
- Mono Meadow Trail
- Turner Meadow Trail
All closed trailheads and junctions will be posted with a trail closure order and map.

South Fork Fire

Fire remains quiet near the community of Wawona. The most activity yesterday was on the east flank burning into the wilderness through scattered pockets of dense fuel and the south flank backing into the South Fork of the Merced. There was an increase in acreage due to more accurate mapping. Thunderstorms are predicted this afternoon with slightly cooler temperatures and higher relative humidities, producing gusty and erratic winds.

The northern spot fire remains south of handline at Turner Meadow, crews brought fire down to Chilnualna Creek to the secure the spot fire with the main fire. Patrols continue along portions of the fire closest to Wawona. There may be some burning well interior and visible smoke with increased winds due to the storms. Bucket work may be continued on the southern boundary of the fire. Both spot fires south of the South Fork of the Merced drainage were contained and secured with hose lays and handlines. Sections of the north flank and the entire eastern flank are continuing to burn in the wilderness and will be monitored by aircraft due to steep and rugged terrain. As the fire burns into the high country wilderness it will burn actively through pockets of dense vegetation but will then slow down as it progresses into sparse vegetation and natural granite barriers limiting smoke production. This high country wilderness area has minimal values at risk.

A high-pressure system remains in place with increased cloud cover from tropical moisture which limits smoke dispersion in the morning and afternoon. Air quality will remain poor close to the fire especially in valleys and drainages. Fire Managers are working with the local Air Quality Districts and will be monitoring smoke impacts to the park and local communities. Community members who are sensitive to smoke may want to close their windows and doors, limit outdoor activity, and monitor the air quality forecast linked below for changes to the forecasted patterns.

Size: 7,580 acres, 47 percent contained

The following trail and area closures are in place until further notice:
- The Swinging Bridge Trail on both the north and south sides of the South Fork of the Merced River.
- The Chilnualna Falls Trail from Wawona Trailhead to the top of Chilnualna Falls.
- The two-mile connecting trail heading north from the top of Chilnualna Falls to the intersection of the Buena Vista Trail.
- The Chilnualna Creek Trail from the top of Chilnualna Falls east to the intersection of the Buena Vista and Buck Camp trails (Just east of Johnson Lake).
- Turner Meadow Trail
- Turner Meadow intersection east to Buena Vista trail
- Off-trail areas in the vicinity of the South Fork Fire Area, including the swimming holes north of Chilnualna Creek.
- All climbing routes on and around Wawona Dome are closed.

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