Mariposa & Yosemite

Sunday storm sparks several fires in Mariposa County

Monsoon thunderstorms originating in Arizona brought sprinkles to Merced County and started several fires in the foothills and mountains Sunday.

The storm came from the southeast, according to Carlos Molina, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford. Molina said the storm moved through the Mojave Desert, into the Sierra Nevada and Central Valley, causing lightning strikes in Mariposa and Madera counties.

"The thunderstorms started in the Valley and continued to the mountains," Molina said. "Because there wasn't very much precipitation associated with it, there was a considerable amount of lightning."

Lightning also struck farther south, but Molina said it was mostly in areas where snow is still on the ground.

That lightning started the first fire in the mountains about 9 a.m., causing eight fires in Mariposa County and six in Madera County, according to Ron Eldridge, spokesman for Cal Fire.

The largest of the fires was about 95 acres and was located in the Hensley Lake area in Madera County. All the fires were in remote areas, with rugged terrain and tough access for the fire crews, Eldridge said.

The biggest fire in Mariposa County was about 10 acres near Bailey Flats, off of the middle fork of the Chowchilla River, Eldridge said.

"There were no fires near populated areas, and no structures were threatened," Eldridge said.

All forward progress of the fires was stopped Monday, and the crews will be kept in the areas until all the fires are out.

Molina said the storm has moved east, and the rest of the week should be clear with temperatures in the 90s.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com.

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