Daytime highs are expected to approach triple-digits again today in the Mother Lode’s most populated foothill towns, and that means fire crews and law enforcement will be vigilant for more fires as dry heat continues baking heavy fuel loads from Sonora and Groveland to Copperopolis and San Andreas.
Personnel with Cal Fire’s Tuolumne Calaveras Unit have responded to at least six fires since Monday, according to Emily Kilgore, a fire prevention specialist with Cal Fire in San Andreas. That total does not include the Twist and Jacksonville fires that blew up over the weekend outside Jamestown.
As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, the most recent fire was reported at 5:44 a.m. Wednesday at 18181 Vía Serena, off Lime Kiln Road south of Sonora. Four engine crews responded and the Lime Fire was contained to four-tenths of an acre.
At 4:29 p.m. Tuesday, a fire was reported at 2126 Merced Falls Road and 2100 Peptio Drive in the Don Pedro area between the reservoirs Lake Don Pedro and Lake McClure.
Two tanker planes, one helicopter and one spotter plane responded from Columbia Air Attack Base, as well as 13 engine crews, one hand crew, two bulldozers and one water tank truck. The Falls Fire burned 20.4 acres before it was declared contained.
Debris burning was the cause of a small blaze reported at 8:53 p.m. Monday in the 2000 block of Squaw Drive in Copperopolis.
Improper use of metal cutting and grinding equipment were the cause of the 10-acre Lane Fire reported at 6:51 p.m. Monday in the 4000 block of Carol Lane in Burson.
“Must have clearance, tool, water!” Cal Fire Tuolumne Calaveras Unit staff tweeted Wednesday about the cause of the Lane Fire.
Also Monday, the cause of a fire that burned less than a tenth of one acre at Yosemite Pines RV Park was undetermined. The cause of a fire that burned .16 of one acre early Monday in the 600 block of Baldwin Street in Rancho Calaveras was being investigated.
Causes of the Twist Fire that broke out Sunday and the Jacksonville Fire that broke out Saturday remained under investigation, said Battalion Chief Matt Gilbert, a Cal Fire law enforcement officer assigned to determining how the blazes started.
Fire in wilderness
Higher in the Central Sierra, where afternoon thunderheads have been visible every day since last week, thunderstorms and lightning have spawned fires including the 147-acre Empire Fire in Yosemite National Park wilderness south of Bridalveil Creek Campground.
The fire was reported Monday night between Alder Creek and Bridalveil Creek, south of Glacier Point Road and Yosemite Valley, said Shanelle Saunders, a Yosemite Fire Information staffer with the National Park Service.
Fire behavior was described as “creeping and smoldering in needle duff, burning in heavy dead and down timber, and backing and flanking on the northwest and northeast sections of the fire.”
Crews are staying near the fire and monitoring its progress. Like the rest of the Central Sierra, the wilderness area where the Empire Fire is burning is a fire-adapted forest ecosystem, Saunders said.
Allowing fires to burn naturally can contribute to healthier, more diverse forests.
Smoke will be visible from viewpoints off Glacier Point Road and from higher elevations in the backcountry, and it may impact Bridalveil Creek Campground, Saunders said.
Fire managers are working with local air quality districts and monitoring smoke impacts in the park and local communities.
The Detwiler Fire that broke out south of Sonora in Mariposa County on July 16 was 95 percent contained as of Wednesday evening. The fire burned more than 125 square miles, destroyed 63 residences, one commercial structure, and 67 other structures. The same blaze damaged 13 residences and eight other structures.
The cause of the Detwiler Fire remains under investigation.
The federal Small Business Administration now has disaster declarations for the Detwiler Fire and is offering low-interest disaster loans to non-farm businesses of all sizes, private nonprofits, homeowners and renters who suffered losses caused by the Detwiler Fire.
According to Corey D. Williams, a Sacramento-based public information officer with the Small Business Administration, two SBA disaster loan outreach centers opened Wednesday morning in Coulterville and Mariposa.
The Detwiler Fire disaster loan outreach center closest to Tuolumne County is at Red Cloud Library, 10332 Fiske Road # C in Coulterville. Williams said it’s expected to be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.
On Saturday, Clampers from Mariposa, Tuolumne and Calaveras counties and staff at Miners Roadhouse 140 in the town of Mariposa are planning an event to raise money for victims of the Detwiler Fire.
The Detwiler Fire BBQ Benefit Fundraiser is scheduled to begin at noon Saturday, the same day Cal Fire command staff on the Detwiler Fire have said they hope to have 100 percent containment.
Clampers with E Clampus Vitus Matuca Chapter 1849 plan to distribute 100 percent of proceeds for fire recovery, according to organizers. The event will feature $10 barbecue specials.
Miner’s Roadhouse 140 is at 5159 Highway 140 in Mariposa. For more information, call Dave Boatright, Matuca Chapter 1849 president, at (209) 591-7670.
Also in connection with the Detwiler Fire, staff with the Bureau of Land Management have reopened recreation sites along the Merced River, including Briceburg Visitor Center, Cable Rock day-use area, McCabe Flat, Willow Placer, and Railroad Flat campgrounds.
Located downstream from the Highway 140 El Portal entrance to Yosemite National Park, the Merced River Recreation Area is popular for whitewater rafting.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.