Firefighters have reached 63 percent containment on the American Fire, which has been bedeviling the entire region with heavy smoke since Aug. 10.
The fire, was at 15,738 acres Wednesday morning, is not expected to be contained until Sept. 1.
Tuesday afternoon, a thunderstorm began to develop southeast of the area, resulting in erratic winds over the fire area. A red flag warning was in effect until 11 p.m. Wednesday for lightning and dry fuels.
Wednesday, there was moderate fire spread in surface fuels with occasional single tree torching.
“The fire has been quite active on the east side,” said California Interagency Incident Management Team 4 spokesman Peter Frenzen Wednesday evening. “Folks will see plumes (of smoke) from that east side. It’s the same side that has been kicking up, and is continuing to do so today.”
According to Frenzen, the management team has pulled firefighters back on the east side to Forest Road 43 due to the increased fire activity.
“To date, we’ve gone fairly direct, close to the fire’s edge,” he said. “With the topography and the extremely dry fuels and the winds, for safety we have had to move back so that we will have time to secure the fire line.
“When wind conditions permit, we’ll bring fire — light in in strips, carefully, and bring it along so they end up with a secure black area along the fire line, so that when the main fire gets there, it loses intensity and won’t jump the fire line.”
Firefighters have been working west along the Western States trail, Frenzen said.
“Where they can, they will keep the dozer line away to protect the trail,” he said.
“We are aware of the significance of the trail and we’re trying to minimize the impact.”
On the south line of the fire, bucket work had been successful, Frenzen said.
“That’s really good news for Michigan Bluff and Big Oak Flat,” he said.
“That was a very high priority for us, to secure the fire on the south end.”
A partial road closure was announced Wednesday for Mosquito Ridge Road (Highway 96) from the junction of Ralston Ridge Road, east to the junction of Forest Road, west of French Meadows Reservoir.
Access to the Oxbow Middle Fork American River Rafting Launch remains accessible from Mosquito Ridge Road and remains open. French Meadows Reservoir Recreation Area remains open, and an alternate route is available.
From Foresthill, take Mosquito Ridge Road to the Ralston Ridge Road 12 miles. At the intersection, go left toward the Ralston day use permit area.
Drive past the day use area and powerhouse, and continue for approximately 18 miles to the intersection of FSR 22. Take FSR 22 approximately six miles to French Meadows Reservoir. This route is chipped sealed.
There is another unmarked route (to the north) that is gravel or native surface roads.
None of these routes are well-marked at this time, and there is also road construction.
The road from Ralston Powerhouse upward is extremely steep, narrow and winding and is not suited for vehicles towing trailers or for motorhomes.
The alternate route for vehicles towing trailers and motorhomes will be through the Georgetown Ranger District on the Eldorado National Forest.
Foresthill Road is closed from Forest Road 66 to Robinson Flat Campground, and Forest Road 43 from Robinson Flat Campground to Mosquito Ridge Road. Robinson Flat Campground and Duncan Peak Lookout remain closed.
Portions of the Tahoe National Forest on the American Ranger District also are closed.
The total number of individuals involved is 1,822, with 51 hand crews, 72 engines, 40 dozers, 42 water tenders, and 13 helicopters.
Four structures have been destroyed in the fire, which remains under investigation.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.