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wildfire

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The fires burning in Northern California have now grown to over 200,000 acres and have killed more than 40 people. Closer to home the area off Highway 41 near Yosemite is recovering from the Railroad Fire that threatened communities, resorts and even a large grove of giant sequoias.

But perhaps the most iconic feature at risk of being lost was the historic Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

With fires burning across California devastating entire communities, homeowners are beginning to file claims with their insurance companies. But in the mountains of eastern Madera County, many homeowners say they’re losing their insurance during a time when they could need it most.

Frank Ealand lives in an area near Coarsegold in the foothills of eastern Madera County that insurance companies call a fire prone zone. He says in the past three years his homes have gone without insurance after being dropped by companies three times.

Wildfires have always been a part of the Central California landscape. But in recent years blazes like the Detwiler Fire (2017) and the Erskine Fire (2016) have been different. In each case, veteran firefighters who have been on wildland blazes for decades say they saw the fires demonstrating "extreme" behavior like they haven't seen before. They burned hotter, faster, and didn't die down at night as fires typically do. 

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

Residents around Mariposa are picking up the pieces left behind in the wake of the Detwiler Fire. For many, that means returning to homes damaged or completely destroyed by the fast moving blaze.

This week Valley Public Radio spoke with a wide range of people who were affected in some way by the fire to find out how they are feeling and what their plans are going forward.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

UPDATE: Evacuation orders remain in place for residents on Greeley Hill Road and Dogtown Road near Coulterville.

Original post:
Residents of Mariposa County are beginning to return home as the Detwiler Fire slowly dies down. Cal Fire is getting control of the blaze but not before it burned more than 76,000 acres.

Monday is the first day some are learning if their homes survived the blaze.

Linda Scoggin’s home is the only one left standing on a remote road in Mt. Bullion north of Mariposa but that doesn’t mean everything survived.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Update 8:00 am Thursday

Overnight infrared imagery of the Detwiler Fire shows the blaze has grown to over 70,000 acres. The fire is now 10 percent contained. In the last 24 hours the southern flank of the fire was active, burning south of Highway 140, in the area between Mariposa and Cathey's Valley. Across the Merced River the northern flank of the fire also advanced and is threatening the community of Coulterville. It has destroyed 45 buildings and damaged six others. 

Update: Wednesday 11:00 pm

Alicia Embrey / Sequoia National Forest

In 2015 the Rough Fire burned more than 150,000 acres in the mountains east of Fresno. The blaze burned hot and fast threatening Hume Lake Christian Camps in Sequoia National Forest. But while most of the area is starting to recover Boyden Cavern has yet to reopen. But that could soon change.

Inciweb / US Forest Service

A little over a year ago, a worn out power line touched off the Erskine Fire, which razed nearly 50,000 acres near Lake Isabella east of Bakersfield. The fire devastated an area already in need of mental health care. As part of our first-person series My Valley, My Story, we hear the concerns of Heather Berry, a licensed clinical social worker who serves the entire Kern River Valley.

"Per capita, we have more mental illness, more people who suffer with emotional and mental health issues, because of the rural isolation. We also have a huge amount of substance abuse.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is defending the Trump administration’s policies on public land. The secretary took his message Friday to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  

Zinke says he came out west to reaffirm his commitment to federally managed lands, including national parks. He spoke with reporters at an event in Kings Canyon National Park, a day after meeting with California Governor Jerry Brown, one of the president’s harshest critics.

The Washington Post

Wildfire season may be over in the Sierra Nevada, but there's one issue that is still burning white hot among those fight forest fires for the federal government. A recent article in the Washington Post documents a number of high profile claims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment among female firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service.

Inciweb / US Forest Service

In late June the Erskine Fire devastated communities around Lake Isabella in Kern County. Nearly 300 homes were destroyed in the fast moving blaze in communities like South Lake. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help. In late July, FEMA rejected the state's request for a major disaster declaration, and the federal help that accompanies it. That left many locals shocked and dismayed.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

In the Sierra Nevada, it’s estimated that tens of millions of trees have died as a result of drought, many of which succumbed to infestations from bark beetles. As a result, we’ve been told our risk of wildfire is far higher than normal, but FM89’s Kerry Klein says the science doesn’t necessarily agree.

Kern County Fire Department

(Editorial Note: This is an evolving story likely to have updates.)

(update 6/27 5:38 p.m.)

Fire crews are making progress today on what is being called the most destructive wildfire in Kern County history, and some residents are beginning to return home.

The Erskine Fire has burned more than 45,000 acres and has destroyed 200 homes near Lake Isabella. It also killed two people.

US Forest Service Prevents Its Own Scientists From Talking About Study

Sep 17, 2015
Courtesy of US Forest Service / InciWeb

The US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station is preventing one of its scientists from talking about a study he authored in the journal “Science.” As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the agency even unsuccessfully requested that Science editors hold the article or remove his name from the study.

Megafires Don't Melt Opposition To California Fire Fee

Sep 17, 2015
Mike McMillan / US Forest Service

Rural Californians are reeling from yet another destructive fire season.

But that doesn’t mean they now support a controversial fire fee imposed several years ago by legislative Democrats and Governor Jerry Brown. Chris Nichols reports from Sacramento.

Bags stuffed with Betsy Miller’s family photos and quilting fabric sit ready to go in her Sierra foothills home. Miller and her husband, Les, are retirees who live in Amador County. The Butte Fire forced them to evacuate last week. Now, they’re back home. But they’re not unpacking.

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