'Elm Fire' in Coalinga burns more than 5,000 acres, causing evacuations

Cal Fire says 15 to 20 structures were impacted by the Elm Fire

COALINGA, Calif. - Fresno County fire crews battled a large grassfire in Coalinga, causing the evacuations of surrounding homes. Officials say the fire started in the hills near Alcalde Road and Elm Avenue. It's being called the Elm Fire.

Residents living on Parkeville Grade Road were being evacuated Thursday evening. At last check, 20 percent of the fire was contained.

What started as a small grassfire just south of Coalinga turned into a large blaze burning more than 5,000 acres near Alcalde Road and Elm Avenue. Cal Fire says multiple agencies responded to the Elm Fire Thursday afternoon just after 1:30 P.M.

"We had Fresno County OES, Fresno County Sheriff's Office. We also had BLM, Red Cross, all agencies assisting with the operation," said Cal Fire Captain Jeremiah Wittwer.

More than 150 personnel fought the fire into the night. Officials say the rough terrain was an obstacle for crews.

"And the terrain is very difficult for access so some of the roads that are in there are hard for the crews to get into and get access," said Wittwer.

Windy conditions helped the fire spread quickly and tall grass played a factor as well.

"We have a lot taller grass than we've seen in the last four to five years because of the precipitation we got over the winter time," said Wittwer.

Captain Wittwer says the Elm Fire threatened 15 to 20 structures, causing evacuations of surrounding homes in the Parkeville Grade area. Cal Fire's website reported a closure of Highway 198 from west of Coalinga up to the Monterey County line.

The cause of the fire is unknown. Red Cross is helping those affected and an evacuation center is set up at West Hills Community College.

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