Telegraph Fire Causes Power Outages and Threatens Homes

In Fire, News

The Telegraph fire has continued to rage growing from 1000 acres to 16,000 acres and caused officials to cut power to Yosemite Valley. The fire threatens about 2,000 homes in Midpines, Mariposa, Greeley Hill, Coulterville, Bear Valley, Mount Bullion and has forced evacuation of the Bureau of Land Management campgrounds at Briceburg along Highway 140 west of Yosemite. “Guillemin said most of the evacuated homes are in Midpines, but residents in other small towns are being asked to prepare to leave. Midpines is along Highway 140, the road to the west entrance of Yosemite National Park. The fire also forced officials to cut power to Yosemite; it had not been restored Saturday night.

Guillemin said the weather was not helping firefighters Saturday, with temperatures topping 100 degrees and low humidity.

‘Dozers are trying to push dirt as fast as they can to get safety zones for our firefighters that are out there,’ Guillemin said. ‘Crews are cutting brush as fast as they can, but it’s an extremely dangerous situation at this point.’

The blaze started about 3 p.m. Friday in the area of Telegraph and Sherlock roads and burned heavy vegetation in the steep Merced River canyon about 40 miles northeast of Merced. Firefighters had the blaze 5% contained Saturday, but the flames had jumped what fire lines there were by Saturday night.

Firefighters were scrambling to handle the second wildfire that started Saturday on Mount Bullion, said Wayne Barringer, a Cal Fire spokesman.

Both fires were burning between Highways 140 and 49 and north of the city of Mariposa.

The Telegraph fire had drawn 884 firefighters, eight aircraft, 94 engines, 20 hand crews, three water tenders and 24 bulldozers, Cal Fire reported.

The California National Guard planned to send two Blackhawk helicopters today, Guard Capt. Al Bosco said. The helicopters are equipped with 660-gallon water buckets and can carry firefighters and equipment, he said.

The Blackhawk aircrews are from the Louisiana National Guard and were sent to California to help with the thousands of fires sparked since June 21.

A California-based Fire Hawk helicopter with a 1,000-gallon water tank was also tentatively scheduled to join crews at the Telegraph fire, Bosco said.

The fire had not damaged any structures. Sheriff’s officials notified residents Saturday to be ready to evacuate if the flames got too close to their homes.

Those residents who were evacuated were directed to Mariposa High School and Mariposa Elementary School. Barringer said animals were taken to the Mariposa County Fairgrounds.

Elissa Witt, 24, said the power failures occurred from Midpines to the Yosemite Valley.

She’s the manager at the Happy Burger Diner in Mariposa, and said the restaurant was getting a steady stream of tourists who left Yosemite because electrical power was out.

‘No power, no food, so they’ve been coming here,’ Witt said.

She voluntarily left her home near Mount Bullion on Saturday evening when her electricity kept going out throughout the day.

‘You can see the flames right from my home,’ Witt said. ‘I just came here and started working.’

She expected most evacuees who live in the area will stay with relatives.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management campgrounds downstream of Briceburg were evacuated by Saturday morning, according to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department.”

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