The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Hume Lake area, where the Rough fire has scorched 23,600 acres in Sierra National Forest just east of Fresno.
Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said the evacuation will affect around 1,000 people living, working and recreating around Hume Lake. No one will be able to enter the area while the evacuation order is in place; people will only be allowed to leave.
Botti said the road closure in place at Highway 180 and Hume Lake Road was moved up to Highway 180 and Grant Grove Tree about two miles north of the Highway 180 and Highway 198 interchange.
The Rough fire began with a lightning strike on July 31. U.S. Forest Service firefighters monitored the blaze, which was under 100 acres for several days, before increasing their response when the fire grew. The blaze has grown exponentially over the last week. The Forest Service reported Tuesday that it grew by 2,621 acres on Monday alone.
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The fire is 0 percent contained. Fire crews from Fresno, Clovis and Sanger fire departments were assisting with structure protection at Hume Lake.
Hume Lake Christian Camps and several surrounding campgrounds were among those evacuated Tuesday. At 10:30 a.m., the camps reported that their Father-Son Adventure Camp and the first week of the Outdoor Education program were canceled.
At 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Hume Lake sounded the alarm to evacuate all non-essential personnel, Dathan Brown, executive director of Hume Lake Christian Camps, said in a post on the camp’s website.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Rough fire was several miles from Hume Lake, but Brown said it could reach the camp in hours.
Brown asked Christians around the country to pray for the firefighters defending the camp, and said fire bosses “have assured me that they will use every resource at their disposal to protect the camp.”
He also asked people to not call the camp office, or try to travel to Hume Lake, but to go to humelake.org for updates. “Until further notice, all of our guest groups and conferences/retreats are temporarily ‘on hold,’” Brown’s post stated.
Raj Singh, a fire spokesman, said Hume Lake has prepared well for the possibility of fire.
“If a fire did go through there, it’s very defensible,” Singh said. “They’ve done a lot of work to prepare. The roads are trafficable, no litter or camp fires, trees are trimmed. The primary hazard – the people – are being moved out. That leaves us to do defense and protection of structures and property.”
Singh added that moving out Hume Lake residents and visitors means fire crews can move faster if they need to.
“If something does go bad in fire conditions and we have to evacuate,” he said, “we’re leaving.”
Tuesday evening, foothill residents filled the Dunlap Community Center to get an update from fire officials on the Rough fire and ask questions – chief among them: should they prepare to evacuate?
“I’m not going to use the word ‘strong,’ but there is a likelihood that the fire could spread,” said Mike Haydon, incident commander for the South Central Sierra Management Team.
While some residents asked questions about their own safety, others gave advice to neighbors: “Fill up your gas tanks.”
With Tuesday’s evacuation of Hume Lake, people like Sandy Bower simply wanted to know how residents would be notified if more evacuations are ordered.
David Pomaville, director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health, reassured residents that officials have a plan. News media will be notified, and they will post it on social media sites like Facebook, he said. The Sheriff’s Office also will assist by going door-to-door to alert residents.
“It can develop very quickly,” Pomaville warned. “Be ready to go in five minutes.”