Progress made on Pier Fire: Growth slows, fire now is 20 percent contained

Federal officials are pledging financial support to help defray costs of battling the Pier Fire east of Springville, which remained overnight at 20,529 acres and was reported to be 20 percent contained on Wednesday. Tuesday’s reported containment was 15 percent.

The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services announced Wednesday that it has secured a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will offer financial support to ensure that local governments can recover firefighting costs. It’s the third pledge by FEMA for central Sierra fires in the past four days. On Saturday, FEMA pledged its assistance on Madera County and Mariposa counties’ Railroad Fire and on Monday for the Mission Fire in Madera County.

The federal grant, provided through the President’s Disaster Relief Fund, allows local governments to apply for up to 75 percent reimbursement of eligible fire suppression costs.

On the Pier Fire, activity is slowing with higher humidity, diminishing wind and increased fire suppression efforts, U.S. Forest Service officials reported Wednesday.

The fire started on Aug. 29 and is believed to be human caused. More than 1,500 firefighters are battling the blaze, which remains under investigation, the forest service said.

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.

The east side of the fire remains a concern for firefighters from Rogers Camp to Alpine Village in an effort to keep the fire away from Camp Nelson.

Firefighters also are working on the Tule River Indian Reservation to control the southern spread of the fire through firing operations aimed at building a containment line in grass and woodlands east of Springville.

Marc Benjamin: 559-441-6166, @beebenjamin