Wildfire Near Mariposa: Firefighters Save EVERY Home!

Huge flames roared to the west of the historic Circle 9 Ranch on Jerseydale Road. This picture was taken at the height of the first phase of the evacuations on Sunday evening. Jill Ballinger | The Gazette

By Erik Skindrud and Jill Ballinger MARIPOSA GAZETTE Firefighters have gotten the upper hand on the Carstens Fire--a blaze that could have been potentially devastating. Anyone watching the flames dart across ridges west of Jerseydale Road on Sunday afternoon or light up the sky Sunday night would have thought the county was in for a large-scale disaster.

A multi-agency force of more than 2,200 firefighters stood against the Carstens Fire as it bore down on the Triangle- Lushmeadows area on Tuesday.

By Tuesday night, crews had turned the tide against the aggressive blazeallowing close to 700 residents to return home.

"Improved weather conditions allowed firefighters to make significant progress over the last two days," fire information officer Gary Wuchner said on Wednesday morning.

By that time, the outlook had improved enough to cut the number of firefighters almost in half.

At press time on Wednesday, the fire was 40 percent containeda number that was expected to grow during the day, Wuchner said.

The total acreage burned was a little over 1,600 acres. The number had been revised down from an earlier estimate when crews used computerized GPS equipment to recalculate the total.

Crews overcame erratic winds, low humidity and severe terrain as they fought to contain the blazesparked by an unattended campfire on Sunday afternoon.

Ground-based forces used dozers and hand tools to complete fire lines along Buckingham Mountain's south slope. At least six air tankers and as many as 10 helicopters made drops on the blaze.

"It's very steep and deep," Wuchner said of the terrain. "We have lots of hazards, including snags, old mining pits, holesand it's rattlesnake country."

At Monday evening's briefing at the Mariposa Fairgrounds, fire officials were cautiously optimistic. Dave Cooper of the U.S. Forest Service said "Our biggest concern is Triangle Road." The area remained under evacuation order on Wednesday morning.

For the full story, visit the Mariposa Gazette's website.