Elderwood fire is largest of the season

Smoke covered the sky from Woodlake to Visalia last Thursday as a fast moving grass fire burned nearly 3,000 acres just north of Elderwood.

Fire crews worked into the weekend to extinguish a grass fire that began at about 4 p.m. on July 7 and quickly burned approximately 2,842 acres of dry brush-covered foothills along Highway 245. The cause of the fire was still under investigation as of press time.

Local rancher Gary Correia said it was the largest fire the area had seen since he began raising cattle there 15 year ago. Correia, who leases the land for grazing cattle, said the valuable rangeland would be a hit to his business.

"With all the rains, we were expecting to have some nice grass for the fall," he said.

In order to contain the fire, fire crews worked quickly to suppress the hilltops and valleys with four tactical aircraft, six air tankers and two helicopters raining down water in the hard-to-reach areas.

At the base of the hills, approximately 400 firefighters and support personnel, 32 engine crews, 13 hand crews, four water tenders and five bulldozers worked to create a fire line. Crews then burned them uphill to create a buffer between the highway to the west and homes to the north and south. The fire was under control by 10 p.m. on Thursday.

"I was hoping they weren't going to burn that much but they have to do what they need to do to stop it," Correia said.

At the time of the fire, Correia said he only had about 50-60 cattle which he herded away from the fire.

He said he lost several 100 feet of fence on the backside of the hills along the parcel he ranches. "We just put that in last winter," he added.

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