So it appears. After 6 intense days the many fire companies fighting the Detwiler Fire are slowly bringing it under control. It will be several weeks yet before total containment, mop-up, and investigations are all completed but we are safe and out of any immediate danger.
The fire started Sunday and quickly grew to over 74,000 acres moving at a rate of 6 miles a day feeding on dry vegetation and beetle kill pines. The conditions for this type of conflagration exist all over the sierras due to 5 years of drought and then an extremely wet winter. The fire on Wednesday threatened to overrun the historic town of Mariposa and was saved only through the heroic efforts of the fire fighters and air tanker support. At one point a DC-10 tanker dumped fire retardant directly on the town proper.
Unfortunately many families have lost everything and as of this writing 58 homes were lost and another 60 structures destroyed. Many individuals, churches, and businesses are pulling together to help not only these families but also over 4000 evacuees sheltering in several evacuation centers throughout the area.
Cheryl and I spent Tuesday evening packing and preparing for evacuation. Having done this twice before in San Diego, I can only tell you that it is an extremely stressful time full of anxiety and uncertainty. This time things were a bit more complicated as in addition to ourselves, our dogs and possessions, we had to craft a plan for how to move 7 chickens. We were fortunate to have a place to go as Courtney and Tyler offered their home and backyard as a refuge. I wasn’t sure if the chickens and dogs or Cheryl and I would get the backyard. Luckily we were spared that answer.
The fire is still burning to north and continues to threaten another gold rush town, Coulterville. There are currently 3834 fire personnel, 478 fire engines, 68 fire crews, 9 air tankers, 14 helicopters, 87 bulldozers, and 61 water tenders all working hard to put the fire out.
In our short time living in this area there have been several fires in our vicinity including 3 just a week before the Detwiler fire started and all previous fires were put out quickly leading both Cheryl and I to believe that this was how things were done here. This fire however defied our expectations and we knew it was different when we read a quote from one of the firefighters who stated, “I have never seen a fire do that” when referring to how it jumped and moved to another area.
Living here you understand the requirements for protecting your home and Cheryl and I have made it a priority to create a defensible perimeter and reduce the chances for a fire to spread and come close to the house. It requires a consistent effort clearing vegetation, trimming trees, and removing weeds and wild grasses. Sometimes however those efforts are thwarted by the unpredictability of fire.
We were lucky this time.