The Detwiler Fire inched toward containment Monday, as CalFire announced that already half of the blaze has been put out and the massive growths once seen have diminished.
CalFire spokesman Jeff LaRusso said firefighters are actively focused on “taking fuel away” from the fire. He said that is likely what gave way to 50 percent containment as of Monday morning. The fire measured 76,500 acres – only 500 acres more than CalFire’s estimate Sunday night.
The cause of the Detwiler Fire is still under investigation.
News trickled in through the weekend that evacuation orders were being lifted. And residents in Mariposa and Coulterville were being allowed back home.
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Smoke and flames once headed toward the Gold Rush-era town of Mariposa no longer linger there. LaRusso said fire is most active in the Greeley Hill area, in northwest Mariposa County. Efforts are underway there to increase containment lines.
Aug. 5 wrapup?
CalFire anticipates the fire will stop burning Aug. 5, but it’s almost certain that fire crews will be mopping up for much longer than that, LaRusso said.
He credited increasing nighttime humidity for helping quell the fire’s growth. Early in the fight, dry nights were allowing grass and vegetation along the fire’s path to dry and ignite easier. The fire tended to double in size by the time the sun would rise the next day. That has not been the case lately, although new concerns have come about: “What we’re seeing right now is a lot of ‘islands,’” LaRusso said – pockets that were spared by the fire but are still at risk. They are being monitored.
LaRusso said firefighters are ridding combustible vegetation to prevent fire from igniting in new areas.
NASA’s Aqua Satellite captures the fire’s progress from space: fblinks.com/smoke
He said dry grass and brush have burned easier than trees, which smolder after being touched by fire and then catch fire after a while of smoking.
At one point, 1,500 structures were threatened by the fire. LaRusso said there are still structures threatened, but firefighters are trying to erase threats to those structures and to residents. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman Jeff Smith said about 500 customers were still without power Monday morning due to damage from the Detwiler Fire. He said 95 percent of all affected customers have had their power restored.
Within the fire area, 144 of 258 power poles that were damaged have been repaired, Smith said.
People are still rocked off their feet.
Debra Barcellos, program director of the Mariposa Heritage House, a recovery support center
Although evacuation orders were put in place by fire officials, several people still did not leave the areas. Two men were arrested Friday and charged with trespassing on closed lands. No injuries have been reported.
Since the fire started July 16 (the cause is still under investigation), 63 single-family homes have been destroyed. Thirteen more homes sustained damaged.
Debra Barcellos, program director of the Mariposa Heritage House, a recovery support center, said it’s hard to say whether the new people she saw Monday at the center were due to the fire. But she said the center is providing resources for those who have been displaced. She would know Tuesday morning how many people who lost their homes are seeking help.
“People are still rocked off their feet,” Barcellos said.
The center provides two meals a day, hot showers, computer access and a mailing address for people who lost their home. Barcellos said the larger umbrella of the American Red Cross also helps.
When Mariposa was evacuated last week, the center lost about four freezers of food, Barcellos said. What is available now may only last until Wednesday. She said the center is welcoming food and monetary donations: call 209-966-7770 or go to www.mariposaheritagehouse.org to donate.
More than 4,200 fire personnel were fighting the fire as of Monday. The cost of fighting the Detwiler Fire is estimated at about $10.7 million, according to fire officials.
Monday night, a community meeting scheduled at the Greeley Hill Community Club, 10332 Fiske Road, was canceled.
More coverage of the Detwiler Fire since it sparked July 16: fblinks.com/detwiler