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wildfire

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

September is over, and that used to signal the end of wildfire season. But as 2017’s massive Thomas Fire showed us, wildfires in California can rage on well into December. Meanwhile firefighting has gotten a lot more complicated; there’s drought to contend with, and housing development in fire-prone areas. Six California firefighters have been killed on the job so far this year. And it’s a number that isn’t falling, unlike in other parts of the country.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

The Ferguson Fire has now consumed close to 95,000 acres near Yosemite National Park, and hazardous smoke conditions have closed Yosemite Valley indefinitely. Nearly half of the fire is now contained, but Yosemite’s most popular tourist destination is not out of the woods yet.

At a press conference on Tuesday, officials with Yosemite, Mariposa County and multiple fire agencies celebrated increased containment, lifted evacuation orders and the opening of some roads near the park.

National Weather Service / Cal Fire

Last month the Carr Fire near Redding exploded overnight in what some people have called a "fire-nado" - with extreme rotating winds that toppled high tension power lines and wrapped metal posts around trees. It was the most extreme case of extreme fire behavior people have seen in California in recent times. But with a record-setting stretch of triple digit temperatures, skies filled with smoke, and fires creating their own weather, 2018 has proven to be anything but normal.

A new podcast from Capital Public Radio reporter Ezra David Romero is digging into stories about Yosemite National Park. Called Yosemiteland, the limited-run series explores everything from commercialization to climate change. A new episode also deals with how the park is dealing with wildfire. That's of special concern now as most of the park is closed to the public due to impacts from the Ferguson Fire.

Los Padres Forest Watch / https://lpfw.org/forest-service-receives-overwhelming-opposition-to-proposed-commercial-logging-projects/

With wildfires burning up and down the state, a new plan for residents near Frazier Park is drawing attention from a number of groups. It calls for thining trees in Los Padres National Forest near Mount Pinos, and it has some people concerned. Here to tell us more is John Cox, business editor for The Bakersfield Californian, and a resident of Frazier Park. He reported on the story for The Californian last week. 

The Yosemite Conservancy

Visitors are being ordered to evacuate some parts of Yosemite National Park by noon on Wednesday due to a nearby wildfire. The Ferguson Fire has consumed over 36,000 acres southwest of the park and is only 25 percent contained.

Park officials have announced they’re evacuating Yosemite Valley as well as Highway 41 and the town of Wawona. Park spokesman Scott Gediman says that’s mostly due to smoke from the Ferguson Fire pouring into the park. "With the high pressure system we just haven’t had much wind," says Gediman, "so you’ve got that smoke that just sits there."

Forbes.com

Archie "Red" Emmerson is not a household name in California, but perhaps he should be. He's one of the most powerful forces in the Sierra, and one of the largest private landowners in the U.S. With his company Sierra Pacific Industries, he’s built a billion-dollar logging empire that has grown even more successful thanks to being aggressive in the field of logging trees in the wake of recent wildfires, like the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park.

Ventura County Fire Department

The fire that flared up overnight in Ventura County has scorched 50,000 acres so far and burned at least 150 structures. Among those destroyed were buildings at a psychiatric hospital, which is now sending some of its patients to the San Joaquin Valley.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The fires burning in Northern California have now grown to over 200,000 acres and have killed more than 40 people. Closer to home the area off Highway 41 near Yosemite is recovering from the Railroad Fire that threatened communities, resorts and even a large grove of giant sequoias.

But perhaps the most iconic feature at risk of being lost was the historic Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.

Homeowners Near Yosemite Are Struggling To Stay Insured

Oct 17, 2017
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

With fires burning across California devastating entire communities, homeowners are beginning to file claims with their insurance companies. But in the mountains of eastern Madera County, many homeowners say they’re losing their insurance during a time when they could need it most.

Frank Ealand lives in an area near Coarsegold in the foothills of eastern Madera County that insurance companies call a fire prone zone. He says in the past three years his homes have gone without insurance after being dropped by companies three times.

Wildfires have always been a part of the Central California landscape. But in recent years blazes like the Detwiler Fire (2017) and the Erskine Fire (2016) have been different. In each case, veteran firefighters who have been on wildland blazes for decades say they saw the fires demonstrating "extreme" behavior like they haven't seen before. They burned hotter, faster, and didn't die down at night as fires typically do. 

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

Residents around Mariposa are picking up the pieces left behind in the wake of the Detwiler Fire. For many, that means returning to homes damaged or completely destroyed by the fast moving blaze.

This week Valley Public Radio spoke with a wide range of people who were affected in some way by the fire to find out how they are feeling and what their plans are going forward.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

UPDATE: Evacuation orders remain in place for residents on Greeley Hill Road and Dogtown Road near Coulterville.

Original post:
Residents of Mariposa County are beginning to return home as the Detwiler Fire slowly dies down. Cal Fire is getting control of the blaze but not before it burned more than 76,000 acres.

Monday is the first day some are learning if their homes survived the blaze.

Linda Scoggin’s home is the only one left standing on a remote road in Mt. Bullion north of Mariposa but that doesn’t mean everything survived.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Update 8:00 am Thursday

Overnight infrared imagery of the Detwiler Fire shows the blaze has grown to over 70,000 acres. The fire is now 10 percent contained. In the last 24 hours the southern flank of the fire was active, burning south of Highway 140, in the area between Mariposa and Cathey's Valley. Across the Merced River the northern flank of the fire also advanced and is threatening the community of Coulterville. It has destroyed 45 buildings and damaged six others. 

Update: Wednesday 11:00 pm

Alicia Embrey / Sequoia National Forest

In 2015 the Rough Fire burned more than 150,000 acres in the mountains east of Fresno. The blaze burned hot and fast threatening Hume Lake Christian Camps in Sequoia National Forest. But while most of the area is starting to recover Boyden Cavern has yet to reopen. But that could soon change.

Inciweb / US Forest Service

A little over a year ago, a worn out power line touched off the Erskine Fire, which razed nearly 50,000 acres near Lake Isabella east of Bakersfield. The fire devastated an area already in need of mental health care. As part of our first-person series My Valley, My Story, we hear the concerns of Heather Berry, a licensed clinical social worker who serves the entire Kern River Valley.

"Per capita, we have more mental illness, more people who suffer with emotional and mental health issues, because of the rural isolation. We also have a huge amount of substance abuse.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is defending the Trump administration’s policies on public land. The secretary took his message Friday to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  

Zinke says he came out west to reaffirm his commitment to federally managed lands, including national parks. He spoke with reporters at an event in Kings Canyon National Park, a day after meeting with California Governor Jerry Brown, one of the president’s harshest critics.

The Washington Post

Wildfire season may be over in the Sierra Nevada, but there's one issue that is still burning white hot among those fight forest fires for the federal government. A recent article in the Washington Post documents a number of high profile claims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment among female firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service.

Inciweb / US Forest Service

In late June the Erskine Fire devastated communities around Lake Isabella in Kern County. Nearly 300 homes were destroyed in the fast moving blaze in communities like South Lake. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help. In late July, FEMA rejected the state's request for a major disaster declaration, and the federal help that accompanies it. That left many locals shocked and dismayed.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

In the Sierra Nevada, it’s estimated that tens of millions of trees have died as a result of drought, many of which succumbed to infestations from bark beetles. As a result, we’ve been told our risk of wildfire is far higher than normal, but FM89’s Kerry Klein says the science doesn’t necessarily agree.

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