Firefighters were gaining Wednesday night on a trio of foothill blazes that have damaged or destroyed more than two dozen structures in Madera and Mariposa counties and forced hundreds of people to evacuate.
The largest is the Railroad Fire between Fish Camp and Sugar Pine that has now blackened 11,603 acres, said Alex Olow, spokesman for the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team. Crews have now extended containment lines around 43 percent of the fire. Fire managers project full containment could be achieved by Sept. 15.
Cooler temperatures and higher humidity have helped to limit the fire’s spread, but firefighters are concerned that warmer and drier air on the way could challenge efforts to protect communities and extend containment lines.
Fourteen structures have been destroyed, including five homes and five historical structures. About 500 structures have been threatened and about 600 people have evacuated since Saturday. Four firefighters have been injured, Olow said.
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A community meeting to update residents is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Mountain Christian Center, 40299 Highway 49 in Oakhurst.
About 250 structures are still being threatened by the fire northeast of North Fork. The blaze reached 1,035 acres as of Wednesday night, with containment at just 15 percent.
Four structures have been destroyed and four have been damaged.
The three-day fire in Mariposa County near Indian Peak Road and Usona Road was 90 percent contained Wednesday night, burning 680 acres, said Jaime Williams with Cal Fire.
Three residential structures, three out buildings and two RVs have been destroyed, Williams said. No injuries have been reported.
All evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday night while the Bronco Hollow and River Haven were open to residents only.
In southern Tulare County, the Pier Fire has blackened 20,864 acres and fire crews now have containment lines around 25 percent of it, according to an update from fire managers Wednesday night. Containment has grown from 15 percent as of Tuesday.
As with other central Sierra Nevada fires, rising humidity and cooler temperatures have aided firefighting efforts, U.S. Forest Service officials said Wednesday.
At a meeting Tuesday night at Porterville College, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told an audience that the fire started when a stolen car was pushed off a cliff from Highway 190 and burst into flames.
Effective at 6 p.m. Wednesday, officials lifted the voluntary evacuation order for residents in the Springville community as well as for all of Balch Park Road, Bear Creek Road, Mountain Home State Forest and SCICON.
Upper Rio Vista and Cow Mountain near Springville are changing from a mandatory evacuation order to a voluntary evacuation order. That means residents may return to their homes after showing proof of residency to posted law enforcement. But residents should be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice.
Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for Camp Nelson, Pierpoint Springs, Cedar Slope, Sequoia Crest, Rogers Camp, Doyle Springs, Mountain Aire and Wishon.
Much of Highway 190 between Springville and Ponderosa remains closed to traffic.