Railroad Fire Grows to Nearly 10,000 Acres

MADERA COUNTY -- Even at night, with humidity up and winds calm, the Railroad Fire burned actively in the lush forest along Highway 41 between Sugar Pine and Fish Camp.

In a best case scenario, a highway provides a natural containment line, but the Railroad Fire has played by its own rules -- ravaging forest on both sides of Highway 41.

When FOX40 arrived on scene, the fire was burning toward the Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias. The U.S. Forest Service has been wrapping historic cabins in the area with fire-repelling.

The fire started on Tuesday, but it grew dramatically Sunday afternoon, driven by strong downdrafts created by thunderstorms in the area.

The Madera County Sheriff's Office issued mandatory evacuation orders for Sky Ranch Road and Cedar Valley.

The Railroad Fire got its name because it burned into the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad tourist attraction.  Some historic railroad equipment was ruined, but the damage could have been much worse. A sprinkler system was used to wet down the headquarters, which are still standing, and the main locomotive and tourist train cars appear to be OK.

Calm winds and cloud cover helped slow the spread of the fire on Labor Day. However, there is concern because more thunderstorms are in the forecast midweek.

Nearly 850 firefighters from up and down the state are battling the nearly 10,000-acre Railroad Fire. Containment is at 23 percent. Ten structures have been destroyed, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Oakhurst Community Center and the Sierra View Presbyterian Church are sheltering evacuees.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.