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Willow Fire Not Keeping People Away From Bass Lake

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U.S. National Forest Service
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Willow Fire

The Willow Fire near Bass Lake in Madera County has grown to 1700 acres and is just 5% contained as of Tuesday afternoon. The fire has not brought activity at the lake to a stop, but it does have businesses and vacationers concerned.

Gordon Barker and his wife drove from Fresno to see the fire.

He pointed out the dead trees on the hillside killed by prolonged drought and beetle infestation turning the area into a tinder box.

“It’s a bad time for these mountains. And they will go up like the head of a match. It is really bad. And if it doesn’t rain this year it is going to get ten times worse,” Barker said.

The area has been struck by several wide fires over the last few years.

Robin Price runs a small store by the lake and says people are calling every day to ask if it is safe to travel to the lake.

“Usually what I tell them is that the smoke in the morning is pretty hazy. So if they have any kind of breathing issues they should be concerned about that. But after eleven O’clock things clear up,” Price said.

Price says she hasn’t seen a big slowdown in business because of the fire so far, but thinks the drought is a bigger setback because the level of the lake is so low.

The unpredictable fire has also put a crimp in the long planned vacation of John Castro who has been staying at a resort with his family by the lake every year for decades.

He says for each of the last four years he has come there has been some level of fire.

“Not really used to it, but just dealing with it. You plan your vacations a year in advance and it is just what goes on,” Castro said.

The National Forest Service says they now believe the fire was human caused and are investigating a suspect.

Jeffrey Hess is a reporter and Morning Edition news host for Valley Public Radio. Jeffrey was born and raised in a small town in rural southeast Ohio. After graduating from Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio with a communications degree, Jeffrey embarked on a radio career. After brief stops at stations in Ohio and Texas, and not so brief stops in Florida and Mississippi, Jeffrey and his new wife Shivon are happy to be part Valley Public Radio.