Madera County Fire destroys 33 homes, stays at 320 acres

Monday, September 15, 2014
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A light glow on the mountains above Bass Lake is a sign that the Courtney Fire is dying down.

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. -- Some 600 people living in the Bass Lake Heights community remain evacuated due to a wildfire, fire officials said.

On Monday, the evacuation order was lifted for residents along Road 426 at Courtney Lane and Road 426 at Suncrest Drive and all adjoining roads.

The so-called Courtney Fire, which started on Courtney Lane and Seven Hills Road in Oakhurst just before 2 p.m. Sunday, is staying at 320 acres but is now 40 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

Approximately 650 firefighters continue battling the flames, while aircraft have been dropping fire retardant to stop the fire from spreading.

Fire officials say 33 homes have been destroyed and another four have been damaged. There is still a continued threat to the Bass Lake Heights area.

The flames have also destroyed three water wells serving the area. The Bass Lake Heights Mutual Water Company says right now there is no water, and they aren't sure when the system will be repaired.

VIDEO: Courtney Fire destroys homes, water wells

A light glow on the mountains above Bass Lake is a sign that the Courtney Fire is dying down. It's a drastic turn from the first night of the Courtney Fire, when flames charged through Bass Lake Heights destroying 33 homes.

"Ugh, it is unreal," said Dave De Boch. "I mean there's nothing, there's nothing in this house that's salvageable at all."

De Boch saw the remains of his home on Cedar Drive for the first time Monday. He and his family had only 20 minutes to escape the flames that burned his home of 12 years to the ground.

He's trying to keep his spirits up, even after finding his neighbor's home still standing.

"To what I got to go through right now, and just the way I feel, I don't wish it on anyone," said De Boch. "I'm just happy his house survived. I feel for her, they just remodeled and it's gone."

Through the destruction, some homes are left perfectly intact.

PHOTOS: Wildfire breaks out in Oakhurst and Bass Lake

Firefighters are stationed all through the neighborhood, snuffing out hotspots and protecting the remaining homes.

"This specific fire could have been extremely worse if we didn't have great coordination," said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jeremy Rahn.

The worry now is that a minor spark could ignite a fire in any part of these devastatingly dry mountains.

Gov. Jerry Brown has secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant from FEMA to help fund firefighting efforts.

On Sunday, Cal Fire said the wildfire was caused by someone. Whether that was an accident or on purpose is still under investigation.

One firefighter was injured while battling the blaze. Action News has learned it was for smoke inhalation and it was minor.

VIDEO: Courtney Fire evacuees discuss ordeal

Current Situation:

Firefighters are continuing to build and reinforce containment lines. There continues to be a threat to the Bass Lake Heights community. Access to the fire is difficult due to steep terrain and several structures in the Wildland Urban Interface. Firefighters are experiencing extreme fire behavior conditions due to drought and low fuel moisture.

Acres burned: 320

Containment: 40%

Location: Courtney Lane and 7 Hills Rd, Oakhurst

Cause: Under Investigation

Structures destroyed/damaged:

  • 33 residences destroyed
  • 4 residences damaged
  • 28 outbuildings destroyed
  • 6 outbuildings damaged
  • 13 vehicles destroyed
  • 2 vehicles damaged
  • 4 recreational vehicles destroyed

School closures for Tuesday, September 16th:

No school closures have been reported.

Residents can call (209) 966-4784 for updates on the fire, their homes, and property.

Road closures:

- Road 426 between Suncrest Drive to Road 223

- Road 222 between Road 432 (Rec Point) and Road 426

- Road 426 between 222 and 22

Evacuations:

200 Structures with approximately 600 residents living in the Bass Lake Heights community. ***Effective September 15, 2014 at 6:00 PM the Evacuation Order is lifted for the residents along Road 426 at Courtney Lane and Road 426 at Suncrest Drive and all roads adjoining.

Residents should remain cautious of fire personnel and equipment working in the area. Some residents in unaffected areas of the fire have been allowed to return home.

Red Cross shelter set up for evacuees:

- Oakhurst Community Center, 39800 Fresno Flats Road (OK to bring pets)

People evacuating large animals are advised to take them to the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds, located off Road 415 just south of Coarsegold School. For more information, call (559) 760-5577.

RAW VIDEO: A Bass Lake home owner watches his neighbor's house go up in flames from his front porch

RAW VIDEO: A Bass Lake homeowner walks a dirt road back to his home during the Courtney Fire