Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

Illegal Campfire To Blame For French Fire, Now Over 13,000 Acres

Aug 2, 2014

Authorities say this illegal campfire near the San Joaquin River is the cause of the French Fire.
Credit US Forest Service

UPDATE: Monday August 4, 2014:

The French Fire has now burned over 13,000 acres and is 30 percent contained. 134 structures are currently threatened by the fire.Officials released the following statement about firefighting progress Monday morning:

Cloud cover helped suppression actions throughout the night, allowing crews and equipment to make good progress in line construction along the northwest perimeter.  Today crews will continue building and reinforcing containment lines on the north, west and south perimeters. The east perimeter has burned down to the San Joaquin River. Structure defense continues in the Arnold Meadow area on the northern perimeter. 


Original Post:

Authorities with the Sierra National Forest have identified an abandoned campfire as the cause of the French Fire, which has burned nearly 12,000  acres near Mammoth Pool Reservoir in the Central Sierra. The fire is just 15 percent contained as of Saturday night. 

The fire was first spotted on Monday July 28th near the Rock Creek Campground in the Bass Lake Ranger District. Residents in the communities of Arnold Meadow, as well as Hogue's Apple Ranch and Wagner's Resort have been urged to evacuate due to the blaze. 

Investigators have identified the ignition source of the blaze:

Investigators believe a long log was left in the campfire, extending into nearby pine needles. As the log burned and reached the pine needles, the fire extended into the forest starting the French Fire.  

Dean Gould with the Sierra National Forest says officials have taken steps to prevent such a fire given California's drought by prohibiting campfires outside of designated campgrounds. The order has been in place since June 25th. 

Gould: "It is an unfortunate and unnecessary loss for all of us, that due to the irresponsible actions of a few, a portion of a national treasure has been lost, not to mention putting lives and homes at risk."

Smoke from a number of wildfires in California is resulting in poor air quality throughout large regions of the state.
Credit NOAA

The fire has also produced smoke that has drifted into foothill communities and the valley floor, causing health hazards in places like North Fork and Oakhurst. The Valley Air District has issued an advisory for 

Officials are looking for information on anyone who was seen in the area of Rock Creek Road near the San Joaquin River on during the afternoon or evening of Sunday July 27th. Those with information are urged to call the French Fire Information line at 559-877-2605.

On Saturday night, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for El Dorado, Amador, Butte, Humboldt, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta and Siskiyou counties due to the fires currently burning. 

French Fire Perimeter Map - as of August 2, 2014