A wildfire burning in the foothills near Prather has damaged an unknown number of homes as firefighters faced extreme fire behavior and triple-digit heat for the second day.
The Goose fire burned 1,800 acres and was 15 percent contained by Monday morning, said Johnny Miller, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
“We have very dry fuels, very steep, rugged conditions, and that makes for a very dangerous firefight,” Miller said. The blaze is burning through dry grass, brush and oak woodland.
Capt. Tim Gehret said some of the approximately 300 homes that have been evacuated have been damaged, but fire crews aren’t sure of the extent. An additional 200 homes in the area are threatened by the wildfire but not under an evacuation order, Gehret said.
Highway 168 has reopened.
Highway 168 reopened Sunday after being closed Saturday.
Hot, dry conditions are expected to remain over the next several days as winds of 5 mph to 15 mph are expected to blow near the burn area, with high temperatures expected to hover around 100 degrees, said Carlos Molina, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford. The humidity is estimated to be only 0 percent to 15 percent during the day and around 45 percent at night.
Cal Fire crews have received help from the Fresno Fire Department, with more assistance called in from across the state through mutual aid, including units from Siskyou, Shasta, Placer and San Diego counties.
Miller said fire crews have been working around the clock since 2:40 p.m. Saturday to battle the blaze.
“We’ve got to keep our crews hydrated; we’ve got to make sure they stay focused and they work at a good pace for safety,” he said.
Miller said firefighters and bulldozer crews have built containment lines surrounding the fire, while fixed wing aircraft help with dusting retardant ahead of the flames. Helicopters also help fire crews with dumping water on hot spots and any homes that could be threatened.
The goal of firefighters is to keep the fire south of Lodge Road, west of Tollhouse Road and east of Morgan Canyon Road, Miller said. They plan on placing more fire crews on the front lines Sunday evening to create more containment lines through the night.
About 300 homes have been evacuated, with some 200 more under evacuation warning.
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office issued mandatory evacuation orders to an area stretching from Gooseberry Lane to Morgan Canyon Road and Gooseberry Lane to Lodge Road.
The Sheriff’s Office also gave evacuation warnings to homes in the area of Tollhouse Road to Nicholas Road and Loper Valley Road between Nicholas and Auberry roads.
The Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at Foothill Middle School in Prather at 29147 Auberry Road. A large animal evacuation center has been set up at Sierra High School in Tollhouse, 33326 Lodge Road.
Animal owners can contact the Central California Animal Disaster Team for help with evacuating animals at 559-433-9663.
Jessica Piffero, spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said 18 people stayed overnight at the shelter established inside Foothill Middle School, with four remaining Sunday.
Marilyn Baxter, 64, had to head to the shelter Saturday after having minutes to evacuate with her dog and three cats from a home on Black Mountain Road.
Baxter had finished a late lunch with a friend when they noticed a plume of smoke billowing outside. She said it didn’t look bad and seemed like fire authorities had a handle on it.
That all changed about 30 to 40 minutes later when a deputy drove up the road with sirens on and told them to get their animals and leave.
It took Baxter about 20 minutes to pack up and leave with her animals as the wildfire grew in size.
“The fire was moving fast, very fast,” Baxter said.
Baxter and her friend stayed at a nearby parking lot and watched as fire crews battled the fire until the pair headed to the shelter.
Baxter was amazed at how Red Cross staffers provided everything she and her pets needed – from a respite from the heat to food, water and a place to sleep.
Sleep wasn’t something Baxter found, though, as the thought of the fire kept her awake all night.
“It was just hard to sleep, not knowing what was going on,” Baxter said. “What’s there? What isn’t there? Is anybody hurt?”
She was relieved to hear from fire officials Saturday that the homes on her part of Black Mountain Road were spared.
Baxter wanted to thank the firefighters who came from the area and all over the state to fight the wildfire.
“Bless these men and women that do these things,” Baxter said. “I didn’t know what we were going to do.”
Meanwhile, the nearby Fork fire, burning east of North Fork, is fully contained at 38 acres, Cal Fire reported.