Militia group spotted near Oak Fire, Mariposa sheriff says

The Merced Sheriff's Department said a local militia group has activated itself to help in the effort against the out-of-control Oak Fire.  

The sheriff's office said in a statement released Sunday, that they are not un-supportive of community groups helping neighbors, but they wanted to stress they have not requested assistance from any militia group. 

"We have not activated them, they are acting on their own courteous accord," the sheriff's office said about their presence in the town of Mariposa, not far from Yosemite National Park. "We appreciate their efforts and any (of) the efforts of other private groups or entities helping our community."

The name of the group was not mentioned by the sheriff's office, nor did authorities say what the militia has been doing.

Piper Brown, a major with the California State Militia’s 2nd Regiment, who identified himself as a resident in the Mariposa area, told the Merced Sun-Star that his group’s role is to help residents who’ve been impacted by the fire.

Brown said his group has the ability to "feed hundreds through our mobile chow kitchen, we’ve got heavy-hauler trucks, we can get livestock moved, we’ve donated our own properties, hundreds of our own acres for cattle and horses, and we’ve been feeding people for two days."

The sheriff's office said the current command structure was put in place to protect the public and first responders. Mariposa Sheriff Jeremy Briese said his office will "guarantee" that deputies will be on hand to protect residents and property owners "to the end."

On Monday California Attorney General Rob Bonta warned against price gouging in the area surrounding the fire. 

"With the destructive Oak Fire burning near Yosemite, thousands of Californians have been forced to flee their homes," said Bonta. "California’s price gouging law protects these residents from being taken advantage of during this time of crisis."

The Oak Fire has burned nearly 17,241 acres and 55 structures since Friday. Approximately 3,800 people have been evacuated. As of Monday, the blaze is 16% contained. No injuries have been reported.