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Evacuation warnings lifted as containment on Aero Fire in Calaveras County increases

Evacuation orders remain in effect for Aero Fire in Calaveras County
Evacuation orders remain in effect for Aero Fire in Calaveras County 02:28

COPPEROPOLIS — Repopulation efforts are now underway after a fast-spreading vegetation fire forced people to leave their homes in Calaveras County on Monday.

A decrease in wind helped in the fight against the fire that has burned at least 5,351 acres, as of Wednesday, and forced evacuations in the Copperopolis area.

Cal Fire's Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit said the incident, dubbed the Aero Fire, started Monday in the area of Aero and Hunt roads. Containment is now at 45%, Cal Fire said as of Wednesday evening. Wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour contributed to the fire's quick spread.

On Tuesday, Cal Fire revealed that one firefighter suffered minor injuries in the incident. Exactly what happened to the firefighter has not been detailed, but Cal Fire noted that the firefighter had to be treated at a hospital.

"As we were able to get crews on the ground as well as aircraft putting retardant and water on the fire around the edges, we were able to start the process of slowing that fire down," Rick Carhart, Public Information Officer for the Aero Fire, said. 

Mandatory evacuations were first in effect for the areas of Copper Town Square and O'Byrnes Ferry Road to the county line, the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office said. Additionally, Copper Cove Drive, west of Black Creek, was under an evacuation warning.

Cal Fire began repopulating areas on Wednesday by lifting all evacuation warnings and orders in Tuolumne County. Officials also lifted all warnings in Calaveras County. 

However, evacuation orders still remain in Calaveras County. Those orders include roads east of Main Street in Copperopolis and north along Rock Creek Road and Highway 4 up to Bonanza Mine Way.

People with small animals can evacuate to the Veterans Hall San Andreas at 156 Saint Charles Street. People with large animals can evacuate to the Frogtown Fairgrounds at 2465 Gunclub Road in Angels Camp.  

Kendall Yoakum lives in Copperopolis and was evacuated Monday afternoon. He said he saw the smoke but didn't think much of it at first until he went outside. 

"We just want to be home. We have a couple of dogs with us in the pickup right now and they want to be home. It's just our happy little place," Yoakum said.

Highway 4 from the Stanislaus and Calaveras county lines at Murphy Drive to six miles west of Angels Camp at Poole Station Road reopened late Wednesday morning, Caltrans said.

Several road closures remain as of Wednesday, including Pyle Road and O'Brynes Ferry Road, Rock Creek at Highway 4, Britchen Drive at the fire perimeter line and Rock Creek at the fire perimeter line. 

More than 3,690 structures were threatened with at least two being destroyed and another two sustaining some damage.

The Calaveras County Sheriff's Office said Monday that about 5,000 people were without power due to the fire.

"Once we started seeing it spread with the wind, we started packing," evacuee Joseph Tax said. "So we got a bunch of stuff together, and the sheriff came and knocked on the doors, told us all to evacuate."

This is an area impacted by a red flag warning that was issued for Monday. Gusty winds and dry conditions all across the region create a higher fire risk and a chance for flames to spread quickly.

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