Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Tuesday as thousands of Mariposa residents evacuated their homes and businesses while the Detwiler fire raged out of control.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved money to help contain the fire, and the National Guard will respond if needed, Brown’s proclamation said.
The town of Mariposa was ordered to evacuate about noon on Tuesday.
The fire neared 20,000 acres Tuesday afternoon as it devoured dry grass and dead trees and scaled the foothills. CalFire officials said the fire was spreading at a moderate pace, about 1 mile per hour. Still, firefighters struggled to fight the blaze, which was only 5 percent contained.
“It’s significantly larger than we expected,” said Jordan Motta, a CalFire public information officer assigned to the Detwiler fire.
The fire began Sunday in Hunters Valley near Lake McClure and has doubled in size each night since. Nearly 1,000 firefighters from across the state were fighting the flames as of Tuesday.
Sarah Hughes and a neighbor loaded belonging into a truck Tuesday, preparing to leave their homes behind. Hughes said many residents didn’t expect the fire to get so bad.
“I don’t think anybody expected for the fire to go to Mariposa proper,” she said. “I was sitting on my deck and watching the ashes fall down. There were some red embers that hit the deck. That’s when I said, ‘Now we need to take this seriously.’”
Greg Fritz, owner of Happy Burger Diner in Mariposa, began his workday Tuesday at 3 a.m. The diner opened at 6 a.m. and served mostly fire personnel all day. Everyone who stopped by the diner for a bite to eat seemed stressed about the fire, he said. Most Mariposa residents Fritz knows are headed away from the fire to stay with family, he said.
By 5 p.m., Fritz closed the restaurant as he ran out of fuel for the generator, the diner’s source of power. He hoped power would be restored overnight.
Red Cross moved its shelter at Mariposa Elementary School to two locations. The main shelter was being prepared at Cesar Chavez Junior High School in Planada, and a second was set up at the Evangelical Free church in Oakhurst.
Power in Yosemite was on and off all day Tuesday as the fire encroached on the park’s main source of power, which follows the Merced River through Mariposa to Merced. The park remained open. Visitors were advised to avoid Highway 140, which was closed from the fire, and to use Highway 41 and Highway 120 instead.
Web cam images showed hazy views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.
Crews from Merced City Fire Department, Merced County Sheriff’s Office and more were assisting with the fire.
The fire command center was moved to Merced County Fairgrounds Tuesday afternoon. Thousands of emergency crews and evacuees were expected to descend on the city, leaving Mariposa looking like a ghost town.
A community meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Mariposa County High School auditorium was rescheduled for Wednesday after the evacuation notice, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office confirmed. Details on the time and place of the new meeting were not yet available.
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477