Nothing new to report on the weekend's most destructive blaze, the Courtney Fire near Oakhurst and the resort area of Bass Lake south of Yosemite. The fire, featured in the video above, has reportedly burned 320 acres and is 20 percent contained. It burned about 21 structures, including an undetermined number of homes, soon after it started around 1:40 p.m. Sunday. More details on the destruction are in our original post, below.
Original post (Sunday night): State and federal firefighting agencies scrambled to contain a series of blazes that broke out over the weekend, including a fast-moving fire that destroyed or damaged 21 structures near the southern gateway to Yosemite and another that swept through several square miles of forest near the main highway to Lake Tahoe.
Cal Fire and the Madera County Sheriff's Office announced late Sunday that the Courtney Fire near Oakhurst had burned nearly two dozen buildings -- no exact count on the number of homes involved -- as it sped across 320 acres Sunday afternoon. The fire, which forced residents out of about 400 homes and resorts at Bass Lake, is about 20 percent contained.
The Fresno Bee detailed what was known of the damage late Sunday:
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson said he believed more than 10 homes had been lost, the majority off of Road 426 near Manzanita Drive on the crest of the hill.
"This is gut-wrenching," Christopherson said. "It makes you sick."
Jon Cunningham was among the unlucky.
Cunningham, 72, was home when he smelled the fire and saw the orange sky.
Cunningham told his wife there was a fire coming. Then he turned and saw the black smoke coming from the other side of the mountain.
"My wife and I looked back and saw our backyard was burning," he said. "So we didn't take much time. She drove one car, I drove the other car and we just left."
The couple grabbed what they could: one suitcase each, a computer and some business records.
Photo albums, handmade furniture, a 1930s piano, tools and everything else stayed behind and burned.
Well to the north, near the unincorporated community of Pollock Pines on U.S. 50, a fire that started as a 20-acre blaze Saturday blew up to 3,000 acres by late Sunday.
The King Fire spread through rough, heavily forested terrain just north of the town of 7,000, about 50 miles northeast of downtown Sacramento. The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office ordered about 120 homes evacuated in the fire zone and advised residents of about 400 other homes that they should leave. As of late Sunday, there were no reports of residences destroyed.
About 800 firefighters were on the lines Sunday, with many more expected during the day Monday. The fire was 10 percent contained.
Very hot, dry weather and the effects of the state's prolonged drought played a big part in the fire's rapid spread Sunday, Cal Fire officials said. From the Sacramento Bee:
“Conditions are awful,” said Lynne Tolmachoff, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “Because of the fuel in here after three years of drought, it’s burning really well. ...”
... Tolmachoff’s advice to residents: “If you are in the path, get out and get out early. It’s moving fast.”
Schools will be closed Monday for the “safety of our children, staff and our families,” said a notice on the Pollock Pines Elementary School District website. Pinewood Elementary School, which is close to the blaze, is being used as a staging area for fire suppression equipment.
Dozens of roads also have been shut down because of the fire, according to Cal Fire officials.
The good news on the King Fire: Forecasters are calling for cooler weather with a chance of showers on Monday, which should slow the fire's spread.