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Bootjack Residents Brace For Detwiler Fire Evacuations

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Jeffrey Hess
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Valley Public Radio
Scott Eastwood waits on the fate of his home, watching the fire burn from Bootjack

As the Detwiler Fire continues to grow, residents in the surrounding area are growing increasingly nervous. Many residents are already making preparations to evacuate if necessary.

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Jack Wass

One of those residents is Jack Wass. Wass is a lifelong resident of Bootjack which is just a few miles southeast of Mariposa on the edge of the evacuation zone on Highway 49.

Wass and his friend are trying to jumpstart his truck to make sure it is ready to roll in case they get word they have to leave.

Standing in the smoke filled air with ash falling around him, the 80-year old Wass says he hasn’t seen a fire this big in the area in decades.

“Everybody is worried about it. It is a bad one. You have to be worried. I don’t think I will get evacuated but you never know,” Wass says.

But outside of making sure the truck is ready to roll, Wass says he is simply going to wait for the word to get out.

“I am just going to load my dog and go. That is what I am going to do.” Wass laughs.

Wass’ daughter Shelly Claspill is a hospice nurse who helped move critically ill patients out of Mariposa to surrounding hospitals. She says the evacuating the terminally ill patients is extremely stressful.

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Credit Jeffrey Hess / Valley Public Radio
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Valley Public Radio
Jack Wass and his daughter Shelly Claspill

“It is because not only are they evacuated, their families are so they are separated from them. I have one patient in the hospital and then I saw his family going into the Red Cross shelter yesterday,” Claspill says.

On the side of a road not far away, Scott Eastwood sits on the back of a flatbed truck with his wife and two young daughters watching to see if the Detwiler Fire is going to crest a nearby ridge and consume their home.

Eastwood has moved his young family to Bootjack to find temporary shelter and hope that the fire doesn’t resume its southward march.

“My mom and my shop are in Bootjack right there. So we are kind of posted up until further notice. If anything changes I guess we will move further in Oakhurst. That is where her parents live is Oakhurst. Guess that is the next place to go, so hopefully, they can get control on it.” Eastwood said.

The unpredictable direction of the fire means it is uncertain what areas will be evacuated next.

Many of these tiny mountain communities are without power or cell service. So families who have homes with generators are helping their neighbors with the basics like fresh water and showers while they wait to learn if the Detwiler Fire will add them to the growing number of evacuees.

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.
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