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Investigators searching for cause of Mammoth fire

Crews held 643-acre fire at Foresthill Road ridge
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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As fire crews brought a more than 600-acre fire under control, the investigation was underway to determine what sparked the blaze that closed Auburn-area roads and forced evacuations. The Mammoth Bar Fire started as a 30-acre blaze but grew to 643 acres by Friday. As of Friday, Cal Fire officials reported that personnel contained 95 percent of the fire. Emergency dispatchers initially reported at about 2:30 p.m. that fireworks were possibly the cause of a fire growing at the Mammoth Bar Recreation Area in the American River Canyon a few miles east of Auburn. Chelsea Fox, Cal Fire spokeswoman, said investigators are “working very hard” to determine the cause. “We do believe it started along the river,” Fox said Friday. As the fire spread, it jumped across the American River and burned about five acres of land in El Dorado County. Fox said that portion of the fire was quickly contained. In its first few hours, the Mammoth Fire was “growing very fast,” Fox said. Crews were able to slow the growth of the fire as it approached the ridge top at Foresthill Road. “It was a very strong effort,” Fox said. “They worked on firming up the containment lines, establishing more containment lines and mopping up hot spots in the boundaries.” Roads reopened Old Foresthill Road and Foresthill Road were both reopened by Friday after they were closed Thursday afternoon. The road closure forced some residents to seek refuge at area hotels, including the Best Western Golden Key off Lincoln Way in Auburn. General manager Lynn Lundberg said several Foresthill residents checked into the hotel as it grew later and the road remained closed. Hotel staff was also busy connecting guests with their friends and family members who had come from out of town to whitewater raft on the American River. Staff received an early morning call from Cal Fire officials asking for any vacant rooms. Lundberg said she called in her housekeeping staff an hour early to clean out rooms as soon as guests left. By about 9:15 a.m. Friday, the first of about 18 rooms started filling up with firefighters. “We’re sorry this happened, but we’re very glad that we can be able to accommodate the firefighters and any of the Foresthill residents that couldn’t get up there,” Lundberg said. ‘Proceed with caution’ to parks Grizzly Range, the American River Confluence and the Lake Clementine recreation areas were evacuated Thursday as was Mammoth Bar Recreation Area. Scott Liske, state parks rangers said Mammoth Bar trails could remain closed through the weekend so hikers and day users should check with the Auburn office before heading outdoors. Liske said the Motocross track was not impacted by the fire and was open. Fox agreed that day-users should be wary of going to areas near the fire this weekend. “There are still a lot of fire engines and fire equipment on Foresthill Road and Old Foresthill Road,” Fox said. “Just proceed with caution.” The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment. ---------- Mammoth Bar Fire stats Location: American River Canyon — Mammoth Bar Recreation Area east of Auburn Acres burned: 643; 95 percent contained as of Friday Cause: Under investigation Total fire personnel: 531 Engines: 40 Fire crews: 23 Helicopters: 1; five air tankers were used Thursday Dozers: 5 Water tenders: 4 Cooperating agencies: Cal Fire, Placer and El Dorado county fire departments, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, State Parks, Bureau of Reclamation Source: Cal Fire, fire.ca.gov ----------