After hundreds of firefighters from around the state packed the pavilion at the Merced County Fairgrounds Wednesday morning, CalFire officials couldn’t say whether the town of Mariposa would be spared or damaged in the Detwiler fire.
“I really can’t answer that,” said CalFire Capt. Steve Kaufmann, a public information officer assigned to the wildfire. “Right now we are working one day at a time.”
The fire grew to more than 45,000 acres overnight and is 7 percent contained. More than 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, which Kaufmann described as “volatile” and “erratic.”
“Some firefighters say they’re seeing fire behavior they’ve never seen in their career,” he said.
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About 4,500 homes and businesses in Mariposa are threatened by the fire, and thousands of residents evacuated Tuesday.
Eight structures have been destroyed and one has been damaged, but no details are available on whether they are homes or sheds. Teams are working on damage assessments.
Jaime Williams, another CalFire public information officer from Mariposa, said fire crews are doing whatever they can to protect historic Mariposa.
“I know they’re going to work really hard and put as many resources on it as possible,” she said. “We’re working hard to get ahead of this thing, but there’s a lot of obstacles.”
Winds, dense brush and dead trees in the foothills are creating an abundance of fuel for the fire, making fire crews’ jobs harder than ever. Inflamed grasses often produce flames anywhere from 2-6 feet tall, and other brush produced flames 25 feet tall, firefighters reported.
Spot fires constantly popped up, and the fire didn’t rest long at night as temperatures cooled.
Fire crews will continue rolling into Merced to support firefighting efforts.
“The state of California has one of the best master mutual aid plans,” Kaufmann said. “Into all hours of the night, we saw strike teams from all over the state.”
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477