Fires

Trailhead Fire grows to 1,260 acres; new evacuations ordered

Crews clear path in Trailhead Fire fight

Firefighting crews are battling the Trailhead Fire in El Dorado and Placer counties. More than 1,900 firefighters are battling the blaze under continuing hot weather conditions. Firefighters are using 123 engines, 22 bulldozers and 17 watertenders
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Firefighting crews are battling the Trailhead Fire in El Dorado and Placer counties. More than 1,900 firefighters are battling the blaze under continuing hot weather conditions. Firefighters are using 123 engines, 22 bulldozers and 17 watertenders

Bulldozers cut fire lines on the ground as aircraft attacked the Trailhead Fire from the air Wednesday.

The fire continued to burn timberland near the middle fork of the American River, with most of the fire activity Wednesday occurring on the El Dorado County side of the river canyon.

As of Wednesday evening, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported the fire had burned 1,000 acres and was 12 percent contained.

The fire, which erupted shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday, immediately prompted evacuations in Placer County’s Todd Valley area. Although most of the affected acreage was in El Dorado County, that portion of the fire initially was in a sparsely populated area.

By Wednesday afternoon, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office announced that due to increased fire activity and the need to move fire equipment, road closures were in effect for a portion of Bottle Hill Road, south of Volcanoville and northeast of Georgetown. As of 5 p.m., the department announced that a mandatory evacuation had been issued for more than 30 streets in the area.

Daniel Berlant, Cal Fire spokesman, said fire lines were being secured on the Placer County side of the American River canyon. Bulldozers were being used to build contingency lines to help prevent the fire from spotting and jumping back to that side of the river.

The fire is burning in rugged forest, making access by ground crews difficult. As a result, fire officials are relying heavily on fire retardant-dropping airplanes and helicopters spilling tons of water with their aerial buckets. Those critical air attacks were delayed for a time Wednesday after a hobby drone was spotted in the area, Berlant said.

Despite the danger posed by the fire, life continued in the mountain town of Foresthill – just under an orange hazy gloom. Most people had either evacuated or worried they soon would have to do so.

“It’s kind a rough living out here. You never know when the fire is going to break out,” said Bob McClelland who settled many years ago in nearby Todd Valley.

More than 1,900 firefighters battled the blaze under continuing hot weather conditions.

Firefighters are using 123 engines, 22 bulldozers and 17 watertenders. A total of 2,600 structures are threatened by the wildland blaze.

Through the night Tuesday, firefighters and bulldozers dug fire lines in steep terrain. More hand crews and bulldozers joined the fight Wednesday.

McClelland and his wife, Barbara, said they were concerned overnight as tankers battled the fire by air. The couple has lived in the area 26 years. This marks the second time fire has come close to their home.

 

They surveyed the fire scene Wednesday from the vantage point of a bluff behind Worton’s market in Foresthill. What they saw was thick heavy smoke hiding the craggy valley.

Barbara McClelland said she’s packed some clothes, medication, and important papers in case they needed to evacuate.

Inside Worton’s, a general store with everything from batteries to sandwiches, people stocked up.

Cathy Mader, of Foresthill, stopped by to pick up a litter box, among other supplies. Both she and her sister-in-law’s families had been evacuated from their homes.

“We are fine. It’s best we stay out of their way,” she said. “It’s the risk we take living out here.”

John Fligg, a resident of Skyview Terrace Mobile Home Park near Foresthill, patrolled the neighborhood in his white pickup truck Wednesday. “It’s a little quieter this afternoon because nobody is here,” he said.

The neighborhood had been evacuated in the morning, but with a shift in the wind, Fligg said he was confident he did the right thing by staying.

“I told them, ‘I’m not going.’ I’m not scared,” he said.

Down the street, Don and Nathan Dykes were moving to collect the last of their most important items.

The father and son packed their belongings into matching pickups. After they loaded up the cats, nearly losing one out an open window, they started to pull away. But they got only about 10 feet, before Nathan Dykes parked his truck and went back for a few more things. He emerged with two backpacks and a rack of ties.

As of Wednesday evening, mandatory evacuations in Placer County remained in effect for Vinewood Court, Oakwood Court, Trail Head Court and Green Pine Court. Advisory evacuations were in effect on White Tail Court, Alton Trail, Gray Court and Tevis Court.

Placer County officials announced that the evacuation center was being shifted from Foresthill High School to the Sierra Building at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., in Auburn. Facilities are available at the fairgrounds for both household pets and livestock.

Large animals can be brought to the Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., in Auburn.

In El Dorado County, an evacuation shelter has been established at Golden Sierra High School, 5101 Garden Valley Road, in Garden Valley. The shelter can accommodate small animals. Sheriff’s officials said county Animal Services has arranged accommodations for large animals at 1100 Cold Springs Road. A list of streets under mandatory evacuation is available on the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office website, http://pio.edso.org/press-release/1798/, or by calling the El Dorado County Fire Hotline at 530-642-7263.

Cal fire spokesman Daniel Berlant fears high temperatures could allow the fire to grow.

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

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