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Escalon wildfire forces mandatory evacuations
Flames move toward River Road from underneath the McHenry Avenue bridge on Thursday. - photo by MARG JACKSON

ESCALON — One home was partially damaged and five other buildings destroyed in a fast-moving wildfire Thursday afternoon that triggered mandatory evacuations on Hogue Road between Escalon and Modesto off McHenry Avenue.

Residents were allowed to start returning to their homes almost five hours after the fire broke out around 3:30 p.m. At one point, fire officials feared a number of other homes could have burned due to the dry conditions created by the severe drought.

Fire officials reported several structures had already been involved, along with a grassy area near the Stanislaus River, in the fire that broke out around 3:30 p.m. in the area of River Road and McHenry Avenue.

The 40-acre fire was 100 percent contained by 9:45 p.m.

The smoke and flames forced closure of the bridge on McHenry that spans the Stanislaus River and divides San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

Escalon, Salida, Waterloo-Morada, Collegeville, Ripon, Manteca, and Lathrop-Manteca were among the agencies responding to the scene in the effort to contain the wildfire.

One witness at the scene said the fire appeared to have started off River Road, in the area between the Escalon Animal Shelter site and Morrill Industries. Fire crews were making access through the McHenry Recreation Area and some were reportedly attacking it from the Modesto side, off Stewart Road in the Del Rio Country Club area. Helicopters overhead appeared to be utilized for helping determine the path of the fire, while news helicopters also provided live pictures from the scene.

Red Cross and CalFire were also called in to assist.