2013-06-20 / Front Page

Evacuations displace some 1,200 residents

By Jill Ballinger

Alicia Osteen, who lives in Mariposa Pines, anxiously waited for her family’s arrival to help her evacuate on Sunday evening. 
Jill Ballinger | The Gazette Alicia Osteen, who lives in Mariposa Pines, anxiously waited for her family’s arrival to help her evacuate on Sunday evening. Jill Ballinger | The Gazette Five years ago, 2,000 people were evacuated as the Telegraph Fire roared--ultimately destroying 30 homes and 100 outbuildings in Mariposa County. Those people were kept from their homes for a week.

Firefighters were ultimately able to spare evacuees a similar experience this week, but the nerves of those waiting for information were not spared. By Wednesday morning, it appeared the worst had passed, but the memory was fresh.

On the evening of Sunday, June 16, Alicia Osteen stood alongside the road block at Jerseydale and Scott Roads. She anxiously awaited the return of her family to help her evacuate as the Carstens Fire advanced toward her community.

“There was a small fire last year,” Osteen said. “But it wasn’t nearly as scary as this.”

As she spoke, cars driven by Mariposa Pines residents and what belongings they could fit streamed out Jerseydale Road. Pets rode shotgun, and pick-up beds overflowed with luggage, clothing and the stuff residents felt couldn’t be replaced.

On the opposite side of the narrow road, horse trailers towed by helpful community members and the sheriff’s posse poured in--punctuated by a few residents who were away from home when the evacuation order came and were trying to get back in to get their things.

A California Highway Patrol officer repeated the mantra “promise me you’ll come right back out” at the check point.

The first phase of the evacuation meant 154 residences evacuated, affecting approximately 400 residents.

By 11:30 that night, the evacuation order was extended to the northeast side of Triangle Road from Highway 140 to Darrah. That phase produced 296 more evacuation notices.

At 1 a.m. on Monday, June 17, a CODE RED message went out to residents of the Lushmeadows subdivision. Residents were advised to be prepared to evacuate.

An evacuation center was established at Mariposa Elementary School. Livestock and animals were being cared for at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds.

When the evacuation center first opened, there were not many takers. However, when the sheriff put an evacuation order in place for the Lushmeadows subdivision in place at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 17, that number doubled.

Just about 24 hours later, the evacuation order was lifted for Lushmeadows, and people were allowed to return home after 8 p.m. on Tuesday night. They went home to a smoky sky and lots of ash, but they were home. At press time, Jerseydale and northeast Triangle Road remained under evacuation order.

Mariposa County Sheriff Doug Binnewies said the evacuation process was smooth. “I’m really proud of the community,” he said on Tuesday.

Mariposa County Supervisor Kevin Cann--who as among the evacuees--noted the importance of the volunteers who helped. “Those first hours are so critical,” he said. “The public really needs to know how exemplary those volunteers are. This community should be very proud.”

Binnewies said, “I continue to be amazed with the overall patience, support and control” exhibited by community members. “When they were subjected to high anxiety, everyone was really keeping their wits about them.”

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