Newsom declares emergency, Shaver Lake a ghost town, Creek Fire evacuations grow

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Get the latest updates on the Creek Fire: Forest Service evacuates last 20 people trapped at Mammoth Pool.

9:23 p.m.: Grandma evacuates with grandchildren

Cynthia Sandoval, a 74-year-old from Auberry, arrived at the Red Cross Center that was established at Clovis North High. Her 9-month-old granddaughter was in her arms and a 9-year-old grandson was draped in a men’s button-up shirt.

They had evacuated their homes in Big Sandy Rancheria about noon Sunday.

“There was ash raining from the sky and smoke everywhere, we couldn’t see the mountains,” Sandoval said. “I remember it was hard to breathe.”

Sandoval said she lived in a trailer in Auberry for 10 years but had never experienced anything like that before.

Her grandchildren live with their parents in a house nearby.

The family had planned to leave the night before but decided to stay until the evacuation warning became a mandatory order.

Sandoval’s son and his wife decided to stay in hopes of trying to protect the house, she said.

So the parents asked Sandoval to take her grandchildren down to Clovis.

“Being a grandma, I just knew I had to try and stay calm for them so I grabbed what I could, and my grandkids and I came here,” Sandoval said. “I am just worried beyond belief for my kids still up there.”

9 p.m.: Zero containment

Cal Fire reported Sunday night that the Creek Fire had expanded to 73,278 acres and remained at zero percent containment.

7:55 p.m.: Register if you’ve evacuated

The Red Cross has an online registry for people to signal that they’ve safely evacuated from the Creek Fire.

“Many people are out hiking and camping, not reachable by phone for their family and friends back home,” said Fresno County Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti in sharing the site to register: safeandwell.communityos.org/cms.

7:50 p.m.: Newsom declares emergency

Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an emergency proclamation for Fresno, Madera and Mariposa counties due to the Creek Fire, his office has announced.

7 P.M.: Family evacuates home in Auberry

Travis McFarland and his family have lived in Auberry their whole life and fires always have been a threat,

But they never had to evacuate their homes until Sunday.

After receiving evacuation orders early Sunday with the Creek Fire expanding, McFarland said his family of 11 packed up and left their three homes to head to the makeshift evacuation center at Granite Ridge Middle School, part of the Clovis North educational complex.

In the middle of the gym, the McFarland family crowded around two tables — relieved that they were safe and together, but wondering what was next and what just happened.

“We had been seeing the smoke for awhile but we were hoping to stay and hoping for the best,” McFarland said. “But the second we got the orders, we started packing up what we could and deciding what we needed.”

They are hopeful the fire somehow avoids their homes or firefighters will prevent their houses from burning.

“My grandparents had been evacuated before but we never had, so it was pretty scary,” McFarland said. “ We had to pack up six cars for all of and make decisions on what to leave behind.

“We’re just hoping something is still standing when we get back there.”

5:30 P.M.: Sierra Sky Ranch added to warning list

Sierra Sky Ranch (Road 632) in Madera County has been added to the list of areas under an evacuation warning by the sheriff’s office due to a potential threat to life and property from the Creek Fire.

5 P.M.: North Fork under evacuation warning

An evacuation warning has been issued for North Fork and the surrounding area due to the Creek Fire. There is a potential threat to life and property, according to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office earlier Sunday had said North Fork would likely be under an evacuation warning, and it is possible that Bass Lake will also go under an evacuation warning in the next few days.

4:30 P.M.: Central Camp now under evacuation order

An evacuation order has been issued by the Madera County Sheriff’s Office for Central Camp due to an immediate threat to life from the Creek Fire.

Central Camp is an unincorporated part of the county, three miles west of Shuteye Peak.

4:25 P.M.: Evacuation warning issued for Bass Lake Basin

The Madera County Sheriff’s Office has issued an evacuation warning for Bass Lake Basin due to the Creek Fire, signifying a potential threat to life and property. The warning covers areas west of Tollhouse, along Auberry Road west to Powerhouse Road.

Also, Alder Springs, Mile High, Meadow Lakes, Big Sandy, Jose Basin, Italian Bar, Dinkey Creek and Wishon and Courtright Reservoirs.

Residents are asked to monitor the situation and be prepared to take immediate action. Those that require additional time to evacuate, and those with pets and livestock, should leave immediately rather than waiting for a mandatory evacuation order.

4:10 P.M.: Firefighters set backfires along Highway 168

Firefighters batting the Creek Fire that has burned more than 45,000 acres near Shaver Lake have been back burning along Highway 168, burning out brush and debris that would fuel the wildfire.

A backfire burns along Highway 168 near Lakeview Drive as firefighters attempt to burn away dry brush and starve the Creek Fire of fuel Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020.
A backfire burns along Highway 168 near Lakeview Drive as firefighters attempt to burn away dry brush and starve the Creek Fire of fuel Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020.
Firefighters battling the Creek Fire set backfires along Highway 168. The wildfire has burned more than 45,000 acres, forced numerous evacuations and as of Sunday afternoon, Sept. 6, 2020, was 0% contained.
Firefighters battling the Creek Fire set backfires along Highway 168. The wildfire has burned more than 45,000 acres, forced numerous evacuations and as of Sunday afternoon, Sept. 6, 2020, was 0% contained.
Cal Fire’s Ricardo Gomez sets fire to dry grass as part of a back-burning effort along Highway 168 at the edge of Shaver Lake in a bid to help slow the spread of the Creek Fire on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020.
Cal Fire’s Ricardo Gomez sets fire to dry grass as part of a back-burning effort along Highway 168 at the edge of Shaver Lake in a bid to help slow the spread of the Creek Fire on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020.

Mandatory evacuations are in place for Big Creek, Huntington Lake and Cascadel Woods. Highway 168 is closed 2.7 miles east of Prather below the four-lane.

There is no access to the Shaver Lake area.

2:45 P.M.: ‘That smoke was right in front of us’

Diana Giraldo and her partner, Miguel Vera, had no reason to believe their weekend backpacking trip on the Quartz Mountain trail would be anything out of the ordinary. They checked in with a ranger on Friday, who told them the only thing to look out for were summer thunderstorms that are typical in the Sierra.

The two Fresno residents are experienced hikers and backpackers. Before every outing, they check the weather and air quality and call a ranger’s station and obtain a wilderness permit if necessary. On Saturday morning, there were no red flags, Giraldo said.

But as soon as they parked and hit the trail around 2 p.m., black leaves of ash rained down on them. They heard thunder and started seeing lightning. They only hiked a third of a mile before deciding to turn back. Five minutes later, they received an emergency alert to evacuate due to the Creek Fire burning nearby.

They stopped at a lookout and saw the wildfire coming toward them.

“You could also see how the embers from the big fire were catching the other part of the forest on fire. It was a sight I never thought I’d see,” Giraldo said. “That smoke was right in front of us.”

Giraldo said the emergency alert to evacuate was life saving. She and Vera expressed their appreciation to the first responders keeping people safe and rescuing people.

— Brianna Calix

2:35 P.M.: ALMOST EXTINGUISHED FRIDAY

At a news briefing Sunday afternoon near Shaver Lake, Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, who represents areas in the eastern part of the county including Big Creek, Shaver Lake and Huntington Lake, said the fire was nearly controlled before it exploded.

“When it was first discovered it was only 3 acres,” Magsig said. “Aircraft were deployed to knock the fire down. They thought they had it pretty well handled. It was knocked down to less than an acre. But within a matter of really just a handful of minutes the fire exploded and was up to 300 acres.”

— Anthony Galaviz

2:25 P.M.: SMOKE BLOWING EAST

Bishop, roughly due east of the Creek Fire on the east side of the Sierra, is taking the brunt of smoke. Air quality there Sunday afternoon is rated hazardous with an Air Quality Index of 449.

Clovis was at moderate with an 85 AQI.

In the fire zone, thunderstorms were beginning to form.

— Tad Weber

1:45 P.M.: YOSEMITE ISSUES FIRE ADVISORY

Due to the Creek Fire burning near Shaver Lake, Yosemite National Park issued a fire advisory for the area south of Chinquapin, including Wawona.

An advisory message is a notice of danger and not an evacuation order, but residents and park visitors should prepare in case an order is given and evacuate if feeling unsafe or threatened.

Mariposa Grove also will be closing on Sunday at 7 p.m.

1:30 P.M.: RODEO GROUNDS OPEN TO DISPLACED ANIMALS

The Clovis Rodeo Grounds at 748 Rodeo Drive in downtown Clovis have been opened to large animals that have been displaced by the Creek Fire.

Owners from impacted areas that need to drop off horses or livestock can enter the grounds at the gate adjacent to Clark Intermediate School parking lot that runs along the north side of the venue. Access through the school parking lot is off Fifth Street.

The gates at the front of the rodeo grounds are not accessible at this time.

12:30 P.M.: FIRE AT THE DAM

By noon Sunday, the Creek Fire was reported to be at the Shaver Lake Dam, about 5 miles from the center of the community, according to Steve McQuillan, a volunteer firefighter.

Shaver appeared to be a ghost town, except for a few vehicles streaming down to lower elevations, as sheriff’s deputies and firefighters drove through the area, knocking on doors to make sure residents were evacuating.

“People are listening,” said McQuillan, who has lived in Shaver since 2013, adding he has never seen anything like the scene Sunday morning.

The few leaving were fueling up at a gas station still operating through a generator.

“Bless their hearts,” said McQuillan of the owners, for leaving the credit card pumps on.

He added that the sky appeared to be clearing a little. But that might be a bad sign: Winds might be picking up.

“When smoke sits on the fire, it kind of dies down; the fire can’t breathe as well,” McQuillan said. ”Generally up here, we have winds in the late afternoon.”

11:10 A.M.: EVACUATION WARNING FOR MAMMOTH POOL TRAILER PARK

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation order Sunday morning for the Shaver Lake area, from Shaver Lake to Littlefield Road, as the Creek Fire continued to burn through mountain and foothill brush on both sides of the San Joaquin River in eastern Fresno and Madera counties.

The Madera County Sheriff’s Office extended an evacuation order at 10:40 a.m. to Italian Bar Road from Road 225 to Reddinger Lake due to an immediate threat to life from the wildfire and an evacuation warning at 11:10 a.m. from the Mammoth Pool trailer park to Road 223, down Road 225 due to a potential threat to life and property.

In addition, the Sheriff’s Office said an evacuation warning is likely for North Fork and it is possible that Bass Lake will also go under an evacuation warning in the next few days.

The Shell Station at Prather was a flurry of activity Sunday morning as campers and residents near Shaver and Huntington lakes gassed up as they fled the fire.

Tony Johansson, of the Bay Area, had been camping near Mono Hot Springs when the blaze erupted. His pickup and camper, hauling an offroad KTM motorcycle, had to negotiate a narrow, rocky and rutted one-lane road before reaching Highway 168.

It was they first time he had been to the Huntington area.

“We were caught with bad luck,” he said.

Johansson said ashes were pouring down on his campsite when he awoke Sunday morning.

Of the firefighters, he added:

“They are doing an awesome job”

Todd Reeves of Tollhouse, a forest service volunteer, was gassing up his jeep.

He said he had been at Bald Mountain, where he assisted members of a four-wheel drive poker run make it to safety.

Did everyone make it out?

“As far as I know, they did.”

According to an update from the Huntington Lake Volunteer Fire Department, the fire extended to Dowville and Camp Keola areas late Saturday and early Sunday. It reported five cabins in the area had burned.

There also were several strike teams in Home Creek and Idyewilde removing kindling materials away from buildings and laying fire hose lines, and will remain in Keola, Lakeview, Dowville, Home Creek and Idyewilde.

More than 200 people who were sheltering-in-place at Mammoth Pool were rescued overnight and evacuated to safety in Fresno, with 20 of those transported to area hospitals.

The wildfire broke out about 6:30 p.m. Friday north of Shaver Lake. The cause of the fire is under investigation. It has burned 45,500 acres and is 0% contained, posing an imminent threat to life and threatening more than 3,000 structures in the area.

Sierra Camp, Big Creek, Huntington Lake and Cascadel also were under evacuation orders.

Highway 168 is closed 2.7 miles east of Prather below the four-lane, and visitors are advised that there is no access to the Shaver Lake area.

Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue has declared a state of emergency for the county.

More than 450 personnel from Cal Fire, Fresno County Fire, Fresno and Madera county sheriff’s offices, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol have been deployed, with 25 engines, three air tankers and two helicopters.

Firefighters on Sunday will be faced with difficult conditions fighting the wildfire, burning in steep terrain, including temperatures expected to hit a high of 110 degrees in the afternoon.

The Red Cross has opened an additional temporary evacuation point at Clovis North High to assist families who have been evacuated due to the Creek Fire.

The Fresno Convention Center is being used as a reunification point for those rescued who didn’t require medical attention, and it also has an evacuation point at the Oakhurst Community Center in Oakhurst.

Madera County evacuation areas

Kinsman Flat, east of North Fork

Cascadel Woods, east of North Fork

Clover Meadow, east of North Fork

Mammoth Pool and Wagner Store

Whiskey Falls

Fish Creek and Rock Creek campgrounds

Arnold Meadow

Minarets

All campgrounds off Minarets Road

All campgrounds off Beasore Road north of Grizzly Road

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