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Detwiler Fire Destroys 45 Buildings, 70,000 Acres

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

The Detwiler Fire continued its march through the Mariposa County foothills Wednesday. The blaze has now consumed over 48,000 acres as of Wednesday night. It is just seven percent contained. The damage to property also rose significantly Wednesday. Officials with Cal Fire report that 29 structures have been destroyed and five have been damaged. Another 1,500 buildings are in danger due to the fire. Over 3,000 firefighters are now on the scene. Nine air tankers including DC-10 jets are being used to fight the fire and to protect Mariposa. 

On Wednesday the fire continued to push on two fronts. In the south the city of Mariposa remains in danger while the fire was active near Old Highway Road. An evacuation advisory is now in place for Hornitos. In the north the evacuation orders have been extended to Coulterville and the area of Greeley Hill Road. An evacuation center has been setup in Groveland.
Update: Wednesday July 19, 10:00 AM
The Detwiler Fire has now consumed over 45,000 acres and is just 7 percent contained. Overnight the fire continued to threaten Mariposa, burning closer to the town. More details to follow.


Tuesday July 18, 2017 
The historic Gold Rush town of Mariposa was evacuated Tuesday afternoon after the Detwiler Fire expanded to 25,000 acres. The town of around 2,000 people located just west of Yosemite National Park is in the path of the flames approaching from the north.

Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio
Valley Public Radio
The Detwiler Fire approaches Mariposa Tuesday afternoon.

Evacuations orders are also in place for Mt. Bullion, Main Street in Coulterville and Hornitos. Officials with CalFire said the blaze exhibited "extreme fire behavior" in hot, dry conditions. The fire began Sunday afternoon near Lake McClure. 

A CalFire spokesperson told Valley Public Radio's Ezra David Romero Tuesday that the terrain and the legacy of California's drought contributed to the fire's rapid advance. 

"The reason they say this fire has grown so large is because of elevation. It's not like it's high alpine forest. It's this rolling hills, and sometimes really steep foothills with all these dead oak trees from the drought," said Romero.  

Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio
Valley Public Radio

Firefighters from across the state were brought in to battle the blaze, using everything from handlines to bulldozers and DC-10-based air tankers to try to protect the town. Smoke from the fire could be seen from Reno to the Fresno area, and filled Yosemite Valley with a thick haze Tuesday afternoon. Yosemite lost power late Tuesday due to the fire. 

As of Tuesday evening, officials reported that the blaze had destroyed eight structures and damaged another, with at least 1,500 other buildings threatened. Governor Brown declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County due to the blaze.
This post will be updated. 

For the latest news on evacuations click here... 
Updated CalFire information about the Detwiler Fire...

Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.