The cost to fight the Detwiler Fire in Mariposa is estimated at about $10.7 million and continues to climb as the blaze rages on, according to fire officials.
The fire has spread to about 70,000 acres and destroyed more than 45 homes in Mariposa County, according to the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Estimated costs are still preliminary, and the air support numbers are typically a day behind, according to Todd Derum, incident commander with CalFire. “So that number is anticipated to grow,” he said.
The blaze began Sunday, and has proven immensely challenging, officials said. Tall, dry grass, coupled with shifting, unpredictable winds has left firefighters facing continuously changing conditions.
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About 5,000 people have been told to leave the area as crews continue to fight the flames. Mariposa County Sheriff Doug Binnewies said most people have cooperated with the advice of law enforcement and firefighters.
The towns of Mariposa and portions of Coulterville have been evacuated.
“When people stay, law enforcement feels very responsible (for them),” he said. “That sometimes puts first responders in unnecessary risk.”
About 1,500 structures remain vulnerable to the flames, he said, including neighborhoods mostly in the northern part of Mariposa.
Flames on Thursday were not threatening Old Town Mariposa, the most touristy part of town, according to officials.
Originating in Hunters Valley, west of Mariposa, the fire spread quickly toward Catheys Valley, Hornitos and Yaqui Gulch to the south, according to Mark Brown, the deputy operations sections chief for CalFire.
The fire was 10 percent contained Thursday by 3,181 firefighters from 56 crews, according to CalFire. Involved in the effort are 410 fire engines, 75 bulldozers, 57 water tenders, 14 helicopters and other equipment.
Engines are stationed in Dogtown, Coulterville and Greeley Hill, where crews are fighting the blaze on the northern and most difficult end, Brown said.
“There’s no good access, and it’s steep, nasty terrain,” he said.
The winds in the area shifted Thursday, blowing against the fire, a change from the first few days of firefighting, officials said.
Among the buildings evacuated in Mariposa was the Mariposa County Courthouse, according to Linda Romero-Soles, CEO of the Merced County Courthouse. She said Mariposa court officials have not asked for assistance with court cases.
“The court is closed until further notice,” she said. “They’re asking the public that if anyone has a case to file, they need to wait until the court is re-opened.”
Insurance agents urged those pushed out of the area to start their claims and to hang onto expense receipts.
If you’re part of a mandatory evacuation, start your insurance claims as soon as possible, according to Sevag Sarkissian, a spokesman for State Farm Insurance. Also, keep all of your expense receipts because they may be reimbursable.
For those who think they may need to leave their homes, according to a news release, make an inventory of your possessions, backup any vital information on your computer and talk to your insurance agent.
State Farm also recommends making an evacuation plan and practicing it, and packing up any irreplaceable items while there’s time to do it.