Numerous fires, likely caused by lightning strikes, were reported Thursday in the Madera County foothill communities of Yosemite Lakes Park and O’Neals. In the span of two hours, fire crews responded quickly throughout the area as intermittent lightning bolts sparked small blazes in several locations.
Around 4:45 p.m., around five fires were reported in the O’Neals area, along Road 208 near Road 211, and on Road 406 near both Red Top Mountain Road and Road 406. One was also reported around the area of Highway 41 and Highway 145, but was quickly contained.
At 5:25 p.m., another blaze was reported in Yosemite Lakes Park near the intersection of Yosemite Springs Parkway and Copper Creek Drive.
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Around 5:55 p.m., crews reported they were preparing to close Highway 41 around the area of 22 Mile House, at the intersection of Road 208. Though preparations were made, those closures were not ordered.
Around 5:30 p.m., most O’Neals area fires were reported as contained. Shortly before 6 p.m., the Red Fire, at Red Top Mountain Road and Road 406, was reported as contained at around 1.5 acres. Around a half hour later, fires along Jewel Vista roads in Coarsegold were contained.
By 6:40 p.m., it appeared most reported fires throughout the chaotic series of lightning strikes were contained. At least two air tankers ordered during the fires were set to be released, and crews were diverted to any other remaining fires in the surrounding areas for mop up work.
Helicopter crews provided assistance from the sky throughout the day. Around 5 p.m., they viewed the first initial fires, saying lightning strikes from an intermittent storm system also causing rain in Fresno and Clovis were to blame. They reported each fire at around 1-2 acres with a slow rate of spread.
Those helicopters worked to monitor the fires and help guide ground crews towards any remaining flames.
Some of the engines and ground crews were from the Mountain Area.
Around 5:20 p.m., the hours of all available fire suppression personnel were extended to 7 p.m. to help combat the fires.
Response crews were staged at the 22 Mile House.