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Mariposa: the little town in the path of the explosive Detwiler Fire

Doubling in size overnight, the Detwiler Fire on Thursday threatened the Gold Rush-era town of Mariposa, getting to within a half mile of the city’s boundary and forcing residents to evacuate their homes under skies blanketed with thick smoke. Cal Fire officials said the fire, named after a local road, was a threat to 1,500 homes and other buildings and has already destroyed 29 structures while remaining only 10 percent contained.

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So what exactly do we know about this ill-fated foothills town sitting on Yosemite National Park’s southerly flank and right on the flight path of a blaze described by firefighters as “hellish” and “explosive?”

Dead-center in California and nestled at 1,953 feet  in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range,  the town of 1,769 people serves as the county seat for Mariposa County, once called “The Mother of Counties” in California because back in 1850 it constituted one-fifth of the entire state.
This is quintessential small-town America, featuring things like a kid’s science camp every Saturday at the local library.
It got its name, which means butterfly in Spanish, from famed explorer and Spanish army officer Gabriel Moraga in 1806 who found great swarms the beauty-queen insect along Mariposa Creek; he was also responsible for naming, among many other places, Sacramento and its river ((“River of the Most Blessed Sacrament”) and the San Joaquin, Merced and Kings rivers.
Many of the town’s streets are named after family members of famed explorer John Fremont, founder of the town and known by historians as The Pathfinder.
The town is known, among other things, for the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, which houses over 20,000 historical pieces that chronicle the 1848 discovery of gold and features the 13.8-pound “Fricot Nugget,” one of the finest and largest pieces of crystallized gold in existence that was found in the American River.
Mariposa and the surrounding area is crawling with ghosts, if we’re to believe ghost-hunters who’ve written extensively about spirits from the Gold Rush that still populate the region. Check out “Haunted Yosemite: Ghosts of Mariposa” below:
 You can easily reach Mariposa by historic Highway 49 or Highway 140, known as the all-season highway because it remains open all year and takes visitors north into Yosemite National Park.
While the county once hosted flourishing mining and logging businesses, Mariposa’s main industries today are tourism and agriculture.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church
The town gets 33 inches of rain per year, versus the national average of 39. Temperatures can range from a July high of around 92 to a January low of around 34.
The former and now-defunct city jailhouse stands silently on a small knoll above Bullion Street, clad in massive 24-inch thick-block walls, it’s a creepy window in the past when bad guys would be strung up in the adjacent gallows.
The headline in this week’s Mariposa Gazette reads:  “DETWILER DEVOURS COUNTY” with this photo:

     13. And, finally, from this week’s police blotter: ” A raccoon in a cat house was reported on Coakley Circle.”
Credit: US Forest Service

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