Major California Wildfire Slows as Residents Try to Recover

FRESNO, Calif. — A chimney and a cinder block wall is all that’s left standing among rubble that was a house Miki Crawford and her family called home for 22 years, after a wildfire raced through her rural California community, the former nurses’ aide said.

“Everything else is obliterated,” Crawford said Friday. “It’s just a feeling of complete devastation and loss.”

Crawford said she and her husband, Jai Crawford, packed two cars with clothes, photographs, family heirlooms, their four pugs and one hound dog and fled Tuesday after the blaze burning in the hills near Yosemite National Park doubled in size.

Their son hiked to the area in Mount Bullion the following day and took photographs revealing a nightmare — their three-bedroom home and at least five other nearby houses destroyed in their neighborhood.

The aggressive wildfire sweeping through the Sierra Nevada foothills covered with dense brush and dead trees destroyed 60 homes and 64 other buildings. But it spared Mariposa, a historic Gold Rush-era town popular with tourists bound for the park.

Firefighters lifted an evacuation order for residents of Mariposa and reopened Highway 140 between the town and Yosemite, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Andy Isolano said.

The wildfire that has scorched 117.5 square miles (298 square kilometers) threatened at least 1,500 homes and forced almost 5,000 people to evacuate.

PHOTOS: California Wildfire Threatens Gold Rush-Era Towns

Nearly 4,500 firefighters, air tankers and fleets of helicopters and bulldozers fought the blaze. A state fire statement said temperatures in the area could top 100 degrees on Saturday and the fire could move moderately fast through the area, torching isolated trees.

Roughly a dozen of the destroyed homes had dotted hills 10 miles west of Mariposa. Residents a few miles to the north also saw damage, including Mount Bullion.

An air tanker drops retardant while battling a wildfire near Mariposa, Calif., Wednesday, July 19, 2017.