Jones Fire prompts evacuations west of Nevada City, partial closure of Highway 49 |

Jones Fire prompts evacuations west of Nevada City, partial closure of Highway 49

Liz Kellar / The Union

A fire that started early Monday west of Nevada City had charred 55-plus acres and forced the evacuation of dozens of residents in the Jones Bar area as of early that evening.

The fire was first reported before 3 a.m. in the South Yuba Canyon, according to the Nevada County Office of Emergency Services. Residents of Jones Bar Road north of Woolman and the connecting roads were ordered to evacuate by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, while the area to the south — including downtown Grass Valley — was under an evacuation warning.

The fire was zero percent contained as of 5:30 p.m. Monday, Cal Fire said.

A temporary evacuation point was established at the Ready Springs Elementary School in Penn Valley while animal evacuations were being hosted at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Volunteers from the American Red Cross were busy setting up the temporary evacuation site at Ready Springs School Monday morning. Volunteers had been prepping at the school since 6 a.m., said Nevada County Social Services Director Rachel Roos.

“This was a cooling center, so it was already partially set up,” she said.

Roos added that while large animals are being sheltered at the fairgrounds, companion animals that are leashed or crated are welcome at the temporary evacuation center.

“Because of COVID-19, we shifted from ‘congregate’ shelters,” Roos explained.

Anyone needing social services was being triaged at the temporary center and the volunteers worked to keep evacuees comfortable during the day.

“There is a possibility we would open (an overnight) shelter, but we very much hope there won’t be a need for that,” she said.

Scott and Lyndly Martin packed up their children, their dog and as many cats as they could round up and headed to the school after they got the 5 a.m. call.

“We packed up what we could,” Scott Martin said, adding that he had several boxes of important paperwork still ready to go from a planned evacuation a few years ago. “Of course, in the moment you’re kind of frantic.”

“We should have been more prepared,” Lyndly Martin said.

Just before 4 p.m., Roos said several more family groups had come in, about a dozen people total.

“The Red Cross is working with them to get them into hotels,” she said. “That is what they’re going to need.”

More evacuations had been ordered mid-afternoon after shifting winds caused a “significant increase’ in fire activity, according to Cal Fire spokeswoman Mary Eldridge. The fire burned through the fire retardant lines that had been built around the fire and firefighters were having a hard time due to a drawdown of resources from many fires in the state, she said. Access to the fire was difficult with no road access to the bottom or the sides of the fire.

At the fairgrounds, the Nevada County Veterinary Disaster Response Team was in full combat mode, as volunteers partnered with Animal Control to help evacuate animals.

“It’s going to be picking up more, from what we understand,” said organizer Pat Ehlers. “We’re getting ready for the next onslaught.”

Ehlers said the fairgrounds was already playing host to more than 60 large animals by 3 p.m. — “a lot of goats,” plus chickens and ducks, horses and pigs.

“(Tuesday) morning, we will really need help with cleaning cages and mucking stalls,” Ehlers said, adding that volunteers must be older than 16 and can just come to the fairgrounds.

Cal Fire firefighters were assisted by Nevada County Consolidated, Rough and Ready, and Penn Valley fire departments, along with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada County Search and Rescue, State Parks, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Conservation Corps, and Sierra Nevada Ambulance.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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