August 3, 2008

Telegraph Fire Crews Near Goal

By Louis Galvan, The Fresno Bee, Calif.

Aug. 3--After destroying 21 homes, forcing hundreds of residents to flee and burning more than 34,000 acres, the Telegraph fire in Mariposa County is expected to be fully contained by Monday.

By Saturday afternoon, the blaze was 90% contained, and firefighters did not expect it to grow, said Cal Fire spokeswoman Suzanne Grin.

Only a significant event would stop firefighters from achieving full containment by Monday, she said. "We're talking about something like it jumping the fire line, but we are not seeing that happening."

Active fire behavior Saturday had been isolated to the north and east flanks of the fire, and crews were working aggressively to get the fire lines completed in the north, officials said.

Grin said that because of the progress, some equipment and personnel were being released Saturday, and that more releases would likely occur today.

At one point, more than 4,500 firefighters and nearly 600 engines were deployed. On Saturday, the number of personnel was listed at 3,974, and the number of engines at 336.

A person who was target shooting has been blamed for accidentally sparking the wildfire. It started on the afternoon of July 25 about 30 miles west of Yosemite Valley in the area of Telegraph and Sherlock roads, burning heavy vegetation along the steep canyon of the Merced River. By the next day, the fire had grown to 16,000 acres, or 25 square miles.

By Saturday, with the cost of fighting the blaze approaching $30 million, the fire had burned 34,091 acres, or 53 square miles, and had destroyed 21 homes and 33 outbuildings. Those homes were on Whitlock Road, Mount Bullion Ridge, Mosher Road and Sherlock Road.

In the past few days, all evacuation orders and warnings have been lifted.

While the terrain has been described as steep, rugged and in many places inaccessible, only 28 injuries -- all minor -- have been reported to firefighters.

The reporter can be reached at [email protected] or (559) 441-6139.


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