What we know about the Oak Fire: Where it started, latest evacuations in California

·10 min read

The Oak Fire has been burning since Friday afternoon in the mountainous terrain of Mariposa County, about 14 miles from Yosemite National Park’s Arch Rock entrance on Highway 140.

The Oak Fire had burned 15,603 acres and was 0% contained as of a 7 p.m. Sunday update, according to Cal Fire.

A helicopter drops water while battling the Oak Fire in Mariposa County, Calif., on Sunday, July 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A helicopter drops water while battling the Oak Fire in Mariposa County, Calif., on Sunday, July 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

“The reason we’re still showing at 0% contained, there is hot ash, hot trees still throwing stuff over the line causing us concern,” said Mike van Loben Sels, Cal Fire Madera/Mariposa/Merced unit chief.

This is the third wildfire to burn this month in proximity to Yosemite and has proven to be the most challenging for fire crews.

An air tanker flies past flames while battling the Oak Fire in Mariposa County, Calif., Sunday, July 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
An air tanker flies past flames while battling the Oak Fire in Mariposa County, Calif., Sunday, July 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
An air tanker drops retardant while trying to stop the Oak Fire from progressing in Mariposa County, Calif., on Sunday, July 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
An air tanker drops retardant while trying to stop the Oak Fire from progressing in Mariposa County, Calif., on Sunday, July 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Washburn Fire and Agua Fire, which respectively started on July 7 and July 18, have reached near or complete containment as of Saturday. And neither of those wildfires grew larger than 5,000 acres.

Where did the Oak Fire start?

The Oak Fire ignited about 2:10 p.m. Friday in rural Midpines, near Highway 140 and Carstens Road. It’s about a 20-minute drive from Mariposa and an hour from Yosemite National Park.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Full containment is not expected until at least July 30, according to Cal Fire.

Why is the fire spreading so fast?

Dr. Crystal Kolden, a pyrogeographer and a professor at UC Merced, posted on social media that the Oak Fire was expanding due to three primary factors: fuel load, heat and the very dry air due to Friday’s 108-degree conditions.

The professor said the area hasn’t burned since 1924.

Read more on the rapid spread at The Bee, Why is California’s Oak Fire spreading so fast? Here are factors experts say are at play.

Fire destroys, damages property

Cal Fire said the wildfire threatens 3,271 structures.

The Oak Fire is known to have destroyed 10 structures and damaged five others, Cal Fire reported.

When was the Oak Fire Town Hall meeting?

A Town Hall meeting took place at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Mariposa County High School gymnasium in Mariposa.

Key personnel provided updates, then took audience questions.

Evacuation orders, fire advisements

Multiple areas have been ordered to evacuate and other areas were placed under fire advisement, asked to be prepared to leave if necessary. Many roads in the area also have closed.

Thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate and power has been shut off to more than 2,000 homes and businesses.

Here are the fire advisement areas as of Sunday:

  • Highway 140 from Oak Road to East Whitlock

  • Oak Road from Highway 140 to Yosemite Oaks

  • Yosemite Oaks Road from East Whitlock Highway 140

  • Chamberlain Road

  • Allred Road from Morningstar to Highway 49S

  • Carlton Road from Morningstar to Highway 49S and all side roads

  • Highway 49S from Indian Peak to Triangle Road

  • Indian Peak from Highway 49S to Usona Road and all side roads

  • East Whitlock from Highway 140 to Yosemite Oaks Road

  • Stumpfield Mountain Road from Highway 49S to the Madera County Line, including all side roads

  • East Westfall from Oliver Creek to Chowchilla Mountain Road

  • Chowchilla Mountain Road from 49S to East Westfall

  • Ponderosa Subdivision, including: All of Chowchilla Mountain Road and all side roads; all of Harris Cutoff Road and all side roads; all of Harris Road and all side roads; 5S25 and 4S04; Highway 49S from Chowchilla Mountain Road to Harris Road on the Chowchilla Mountain Road side

  • Highway 49S from Triangle Road to the Madera County Line, including all side roads (this includes: Watt Road, Watt Road Extension, Harris Road, Kimble Road and all side roads)

  • Highway 140 from Ponderosa Way to Briceburg both side of the roads

  • Colorado from Highway 140 to East Whitlock

  • Rancheria Creek Road

  • Davis Road

  • Wilderness View Road

  • Rumley Mine Road

  • Grosjean Road from Highway 140 to Foran Road, including all side roads

  • Foran Road to East Whitlock

  • East Whitlock from Foran to Highway 140, including all side roads

  • Devils Gulch to Signal Peak Area, including Chowchilla Mountain Road

“A fire advisement is NOT an evacuation Order,” the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook, “it is simply to advise residents in the area of the potential need to evacuate should conditions change. Allowing those in the affected area to plan and prepare.”

An evacuation shelter has been established at Mariposa Elementary School, 5044 Jones St. in Mariposa.

Here are the mandatory evacuation orders as of Sunday:

  • Carstens Road

  • Buckingham Mountain Road

  • Plumbar Creek Road

  • Triangle from Highway 140 to Darrah

  • Jerseydale and all side roads

  • Lushmeadows Subdivision

  • Triangle Road from Darrah Road to Westfall and all side roads

  • Boyer Road from Highway 49S and all side roads

  • Darrah Road from Highway 49S to Triangle Road, including all side roads

  • Triangle Road from 49S to Westfall Road and all side roads, including Triangle Park

  • Tip Top Road

  • Wass Road

  • Westfall from Triangle to Oliver Creek

  • Silva Road from Cole to Triangle, including all side roads

  • Gingers Trish Road

  • Cole Road to Darrah Road, including all side roads

  • McNally Road

  • Highway 49S from Darrah Road to Triangle Road, east side only

  • Woodland Drive

  • Brooks Road

  • Carlton from Triangle to Morningstar Lane

  • Morningstar from Carlton to Allred Road, including all side roads

  • Indian Rock Lane

  • Allred from 140 to Morningstar

  • Westside of Highway 140 from Triangle Road to Allred Road

  • Carlton Road from Morningstar to Silvia Road, including all side roads

  • Silva Road from Carlton to Highway 49S, including all side roads

  • Shaffer Road from Silva Road to Allred Road

  • Highway 49S from Silva to Darrah Road (on the Bootjack Market side). To evacuate please use Carlton/Silva Road to Highway 49S

  • Highway 140 from Triangle Road to Ponderosa Way (on Midpines Market side of Highway 140)

  • Ponderosa Way from Highway 140 to Feliciana

  • Mountain Road and all side roads

  • Sweetwater Ridge/Mine area

  • Feliciana Mountain Road

  • Ferguson/Apperson Mine Road area

  • Savage Lundy Trail

  • Hites Cove Road

  • Footman Ridge Area

  • Devils Gulch area

Here are the road closures as of Sunday:

  • Highway 140 from Grosjean to Ponderosa Way

  • Carstens Road

  • Triangle Road from Highway 140 to Highway 49 and all side roads

  • Jerseydale Road

  • Silva Road from Cole Road and Triangle Road

  • Wass Road

  • Tip Top Road

  • Darrah at 49

  • Westfall from Triangle to Oliver Creek

  • McNally Road

  • Woodland Drive

  • Brooks Road

  • Bootjack Lane

  • Cole Road

  • Carlton from Triangle to Morningstar

  • Allred from Highway 140 to Morningstar

  • Morningstar from Carlton to Allred, including all side roads

Have animals needing evacuation?

The Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office said large animals could be housed at the Mariposa Fairgrounds, 5007 Fairgrounds Road, Mariposa.

However, no visitations of your animals are allowed at this time.

In addition, large animals could be taken to the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds, 44777 Rodeo Grounds Lane.

For those who need to drop off food or “for specific information about your large animal, NOT Dogs or Cats,” contact Animal Control at 707-484-3556.

The small animal drop off at the Mariposa County SPCA was full.

But small animals still were being accepted at Mariposa Elementary School, 5044 Jones St., Mariposa.

How many firefighters are battling Oak Fire?

By Sunday night, a total of 2,548 personnel were batting the fire.

There were 281 engines, 86 dozers, 63 hand crews, 46 water tenders and 17 helicopters.

A firefighter stands atop a fire engine shortly after coming on duty to battle the Oak Fire in the Jerseydale community of Mariposa County, Calif., on Sunday, July 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A firefighter stands atop a fire engine shortly after coming on duty to battle the Oak Fire in the Jerseydale community of Mariposa County, Calif., on Sunday, July 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

State of emergency

On Saturday evening, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County.

A state of emergency allows public officials to change usual operations and order actions to respond to an unfolding crisis.

Earlier Saturday, Newsom announced that California secured a federal grant that will provide financial assistance in the fight against the Oak Fire.

The Fire Management Assistance Grant comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Where has the fire spread lately?

“On the north side, the fire passed Sweetwater Ridge and made a hard push toward the community of Mariposa Pines,” Cal Fire stated in its Sunday night update. “Three strike teams were able to hold the fire at Bear Clover Lane, protecting Mariposa Pines.

“The fire perimeter is moving into the Ferguson Fire burn scar in the northeast side. Damage inspection teams began surveying the (affected) areas.”

Where to find Oak Fire updates

Follow The Bee’s coverage of the Oak and other wildfires at fresnobee.com/fires. Recent stories include:

»» Oak Fire live updates: ‘Extreme’ wildfire surpasses 15,500 acres, crews race to halt spread

»» Why is California’s Oak Fire spreading so fast? Here are factors experts say are at play

»» Oak Fire prompts Newsom to declare state of emergency for county near Yosemite National Park

»» Fast-moving Oak Fire near Yosemite is belching smoke. Will it choke Fresno area?

Sign up for text and email alerts, including evacuation orders, from the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office at MSOAlert.com.

Cal Fire’s incident page for the Oak Fire is at fire.ca.gov/incidents/2022/7/22/oak-fire/. Updates are also posted on the agency’s Twitter account @CAL_FIRE. A comprehensive release describing overnight activity and the forecast for the day is typically posted by about 7 a.m.

For real-time air quality conditions generated by sources including wildfire smoke across the country, visit fire.airnow.gov.

Unofficial but generally reliable updates are posted at @CAFireScanner.

The Fire Integrated Real Time Intelligence System (FIRIS), “a program intended to significantly improve situational awareness for first responders,” posts the latest mapping and acreage totals @FIRIS.

Updates and retweets with key context can be found @stacey_hb_.

What they’re posting on social media about the Oak Fire