With area fire crews battling one of the biggest wildfires in recent years, members of the Oakdale Saddle Club are supporting the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Posse and Animal Control staff with the evacuation of livestock in threatened areas.
The fire started Aug 17 in the Clavey River canyon and quickly jumped the Tuolumne River. As of Monday, the fire had consumed over 150,000 acres and was only 20 percent contained by Tuesday as over 2,500 fire personnel from around the state, some volunteers, worked to get the blaze under control. The cost so far to battle the fire is estimated at $20.5 million.
Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE), said the fire was the 13th largest in state history.
“We’ve evacuated 30 horses, some goats, a sheep and a mini-burro,” said Kevin Fox of the Oakdale Saddle Club. “We are in contact with Tuolumne Sheriff and Animal Control and coordinating everything through those agencies.”
Fox said the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Posse has stalls set up inside and outside their arena on Rawhide Road in Jamestown to provide a place to bring animals when they are evacuated. Arrangements were made for large animal overflow from the site to go to the Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo Grounds on East F Street.
“We’re not concentrating on cattle so much as we are for horses,” said Fox. “The cows are pretty much free range and are avoiding the fire areas.”
According to Fox, Saddle Club member Julie Baker has set up 10 drivers with livestock trailers ready to go if needed. One small group of club members was deployed Sunday night, Aug. 25 around 11:30 p.m. to move horses and a buffalo to the arena in Jamestown. Three to five drivers are standing by at all times to assist, Fox said.
The fire has threatened 2,434 homes in and around the communities of Buck Meadows, Groveland, Mi-Wuk Village, Pine Mountain Lake, Ponderosa Hills, Tuolumne City, Twain Harte, and Yosemite Vista. Approximately 1,947 of the threatened homes are primary residences and 487 are secondary homes. The fire was also threatening 2,494 buildings, the Hetch-Hetchy Reservoir, power lines, and multiple watersheds in the area.
Mandatory evacuations were issued for approximately 1,050 people, and voluntary evacuations were issued for 2,846 people.
The cause of the fire is still unknown; however in a briefing on Saturday, Aug. 24, Twain Harte Fire and Rescue Chief Todd McNeal stated he believed the origin was of a human source and not through nature.
“We know that it was human caused,” said McNeal. “It could be some sort of grow. We highly suspect a marijuana grow, but at this point it doesn’t much matter.”
Several Oakdale Saddle Club members have organized a Rim Fire Donations Drive, collecting at the Yogurt Station on West F Street.