45 structures destroyed as thousands flee Detwiler Fire

ABC10's Becca Habegger was live in Mariposa County with an update on the Detwiler Fire.

Authorities say a stubborn wildfire burning in foothills west of Yosemite National Park has now destroyed 45 structures while forcing thousands of people from their homes.

It's not clear what type of buildings burned.

The fire grew overnight and has scorched 109 square miles (282 square kilometers).

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said more than 3,000 firefighters are battling the 5-day-old blaze that was threatening about 1,500 homes and other buildings.

The flames are near Highway 49, a historical route in the western Sierra Nevada dotted with towns that sprouted when gold miners were drawn to California in the 1800s.

The fire is 10 percent contained.

Heavy smoke hung in the air over Mariposa, a town of 2,000 with century-old wooden buildings, including what's touted as the oldest active courthouse west of the Rocky Mountains.

The fire got within a half mile of Mariposa but crews have been able to keep it out of the town, Cal Fire spokesman Jason Motta

"Most of the town of Mariposa has not been affected by anything other than the smoke," Motta said.
At its closest, the blaze was still about 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the boundary of Yosemite, where campgrounds are open, park spokesman Scott Gediman said. The fire closed one of several roads into the park during its busy summer season, and rangers warned visitors with respiratory problems to be mindful of the smoky haze the blaze wafted over the park's landmark Half Dome rock face, Gediman said.

Among park visitors Gediman talked to, "people understand fire is a naturally occurring thing," he said. "Nobody was upset about it."

Yosemite does not appear at risk from the fire, which was moving south Wednesday, away from the park, California fire spokesman Jordan Motta said.

Tony Munoz, 63, and his wife, Edna Munoz, 59, were ordered out of their home outside Mariposa on Tuesday. They grabbed clothes, medicine and their three dogs and a cat before fleeing.

Driving out on narrow roads clogged by others getting out, "you couldn't even see the sun" in the ash-filled sky, said Tony Munoz, a school custodian.

Downtown Mariposa was empty except for firefighters and other emergency workers. Fierce flames were visible on slopes about a mile away.

Record rain and snowfall in the mountains this winter abruptly ended California's five-year drought. But that has increased the challenge for crews battling flames feeding on dense vegetation.

"There's ample fuel and steep terrain," Cal Fire spokeswoman DeeDee Garcia said. "It makes firefighting difficult."

Statewide, about 6,000 firefighters were battling 17 large wildfires, including about 2,200 at the fire near Yosemite.

Gov. Jerry Brown has declared an emergency, bolstering the state's resources to battle the fire that he said has forced thousands of residents to flee and is expected to continue burning.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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