The massive “Detwiler Fire” near Yosemite National Park in California has burned through 48,000 acres and is 7% contained.
The fire had doubled in size overnight on July 18, reaching 45,724 acres and was 7% contained. Its pace slowed considerably though, and, by 9 p.m. July 19, in the latest update, the fire had reached 48,000 acres with 7% contained. Twenty-nine structures were destroyed with 5 damaged.
The night before, the blaze had burned 25,000 acres and was continuing to grow, threatening an entire town and hundreds of structures and turning skies orange.
The blaze in Mariposa County, California led to “thousands of evacuations” from the Town of Mariposa not far from Yosemite National Park as the flames drew near the community, imperiling the historic Gold Rush town.
The fire grew during the night:
Videos and posted on social media documented the size of the threat. “This is just insane,” wrote one Twitter user who posted a dramatic photo of the fire.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Fire Was Called ‘Very Dynamic’ & Extreme By Fire Officials
“#DetwilerFire very dynamic and exhibiting extreme fire behavior. Please heed the directions of firefighters & law enforcement officers,” warned Cal Fire on Twitter. Cal Fire is the name used by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
According to Cal Fire, the Detwiler fire started on Sunday, July 16 at about 4 p.m. As of 8:30 p.m. on July 18 on the west coast, 1,500 structures were threatened, eight were destroyed and one was damaged. Things became worse by the morning of July 19.
The number of structures destroyed – eight – had remained the same overnight, though.
You can see the list of road closings, evacuations, and shelters here.
“Today, firefighters experienced extreme and aggressive fire behavior with active crowning, short- range spotting and uphill runs,” Cal Fire wrote on July 18. “The communities of Hunters Valley, Bear Valley, Catheys Valley, Mormon Bar, The Town of Mariposa, Mount Bullion, Yaqui Gulch/Aqua Fria areas and Hornitos continue to be threatened. The fire encroaches on culturally and historically sensitive areas.”
That wasn’t all. “Traffic along HWY 149, 49N and 49S will be impacted as a result of road closures. The fire continues to threaten power lines to the south of the incident, which supply power to Yosemite National Park. Firefighters on the ground as well as aircraft are actively working to contain and suppress the fire,” reported Cal Fire.
2. Mariposa, a Historic ‘Gold Rush Town,’ Was Threatened by the Fire
Churches, schools, and community halls welcomed evacuees from the Town of Mariposa as the Detwiler Fire approached. Mariposa, “first settled in 1849, is the southernmost in the Gold Rush chain of towns,” according to Yosemite.com.
“The streets follow the original street grid laid out by John C. Fremont in 1850. Several disastrous early fires convinced settlers to rebuild with stone, brick and adobe.”
Five shelters were publicized:
Firefighters were working hard to protect the town.
Traffic earlier in the day was confined to a narrow, winding road.
Downtown Mariposa looked like a ghost town:
Mariposa lies in the shadow of Yosemite. “Mariposa has retained the small town charm of a bygone era, so you won’t see strip malls or chain stores, and Mariposa remains one of a handful of California towns without a stop light,” Yosemite.com reports.
“With Yosemite National Park in Mariposa’s backyard, tourism played a role as far back as the 1870s, though it didn’t really take off until automobile travel did too. Nowadays, about four million people visit Yosemite National Park each year. Over the years, the county has become host to a wide variety of popular annual festivals. Whichever month you arrive in, you’re bound to find something fun going on.”
People posted prayers for the town and its people on Twitter. “Hoping my family in Mariposa is going to be ok tonight ?? #DetwilerFire,” wrote one woman on Twitter.
3. Dramatic Photos & Videos Captured the Extent of the Blaze
Photos and videos captured the fire’s eerie orange glow and haze. “Firefighters executed an all out air attack on the massive flames from the Detwiler Fire, ripping across hillsides, and over mountain tops near the community of Mariposa,” reported CBS Sacramento.
The fire crossed highways.
Falling ash was described as looking like snow.
California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency as a result of the fire.
4. More Than 2,200 Personnel Battled the Blaze
Cal Fire’s spokesman told ABC30 the fire was a “full on challenge.”
“When you add the challenge that we’re in the foothills– when you add the slopes and grades and the temperatures we’re dealing with, the humidity we’re dealing with– it’s a full on challenge,” said Isaac Sanchez to the television station.
Fire officials said that, as of July 19, 2,200 personnel were battling the fire, up from 1,400.
The fire’s cause remains under investigation.
Here are some facts on the Detwiler Fire from Cal Fire, as of July 18:
Total Fire Personnel: 1,405
Total Fire Engines: 217
Total Fire Crews: 35
Total Airtankers: 9
Total Helicopters: 11
Total Dozers: 35
Total Water Tenders: 26
You can see a map of the Detwiler Fire here:
“Can’t say enough thanks to the brave firefighters that are part of the strike team to help fight the #DetwilerFire @CALFIRE_PIO,” wrote one man on Twitter, echoing the words of many.
5. The Detwiler Fire Is But One of Many California Wildfires in 2017
You can see above that the Detwiler Fire is only one of a series of wildfires in California in 2017, but it’s a major one.
“I have many friends affected by the #DetwilerFire. I am hopeful that the firefighters can get this under control soon. :(!!!” wrote one distraught Twitter user.