Large grassfire in Snelling contained

05/14/2013 3:09 PM

05/14/2013 3:11 PM

An 18-acre vegetation fire in Snelling was under control Tuesday after crews battled the blaze all night, said Merced County Fire Battalion Chief Gabriel Santos.

The fire was reported around 2:15 p.m. Monday off of Snelling Road, near Robinson Road. A total of 62 fire personnel responded to the fire, including four engines from Merced County, and crews from the state’s California Department of Forestry and Fire.

Two additional spot fires broke out from embers carried by the wind, Santos said. Fire crews used two water-dropping helicopters to attack the blaze, which was fully contained by 8 p.m. Monday.

Crews remained on scene Tuesday, continuing to mop-up the area and minimize hot spots, Santos said. No structures were threatened by the fire.

Two firefighters sprained their ankles during the incident, Santos said. No other injuries were reported.

The fire was challenging because of its location — it burned on both sides of the Merced River — providing limited access and a rocky terrain, Santos said. Fire crews also encountered several rattlesnakes, he added.

The fire had the potential of spreading to 40 acres of surrounding land amid Monday’s heat and dry conditions. Santos said limited rainfall has caused fire season to come several months early this year.

“We’re seeing fire behavior now that we normally see in August and September,” he said. “Fire season has arrived, and we encourage homeowners to use caution during recreational activities in the hot weather.”

The cause of the fire in Snelling is still under investigation.

-- Ramona Giwargis

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