Outside Annie Ruth’s Cafe Sunday, everything smelled like wildfire.
Inside the popular Brownsville eatery, it smelled like fried chicken and “Jim’s Award-Winning Chili.”
Waitress Elizabeth Field greeted customers warmly but was a slightly concerned the Swedes Fire in Butte County could soon burn its way into Yuba County.
“The ashes have been pretty bad this year,” Field said. “Yesterday, I left the backseat windows down in my car, and when I opened the door, it looked like someone had been cremated in there.”
Cal Fire officials on Sunday said the Swedes Fire presented little risk to Yuba County residents. The fire sparked Friday afternoon near Swedes Flat Road and Chinese Wall Road, southeast of Oroville.
The Swedes Fire continued burning Monday in Butte County, growing to 1,995 acres with 45 percent containment reported. Although some evacuations were being lifted, the fire has claimed one home, numerous vehicles and several smaller buildings while threatening more than 400 structures.
But the real fear for residents in Yuba County, officials said, is the approaching thunderstorms that could bring a nasty mix of high winds and lightning strikes into the dried-out foothills.
“We are worried about the lightning and the wind, and there’s a Red Flag Warning in effect,” said Stefanie Henry, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.
Meteorologists called for thunderstorms in the foothills through Wednesday night.
Cal Fire reported 900 people working the fire as of Monday afternoon.
“We’d really like to get this (Swedes Fire) put out before the thunderstorms come because those also bring very erratic winds,” Capt. Scott McLean said.
According to Cal Fire, since Sunday evening through Monday morning, there had been more than 25,400 lightning strikes in California. One hundred confirmed new fires have sparked, burning more than 5,000 acres.
Rob Parsons is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.