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Man arrested for arson in Placer County


Source: Cal Fire

Tahoe National Forest reopens, fire restrictions revised

From a release:

The USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region has rescinded the Regional Closure Order affecting all National Forests in California including the Tahoe National Forest as of Sept. 15 at 11:59 p.m.

To protect natural resources and provide for public safety, the Tahoe National Forest has revised fire restrictions and implemented a new, temporary closure order on dispersed camping and target shooting effective Thursday, Sept., 16, 2021, through Nov. 1, 2021.

This Forest Order prohibits the following activities across the Tahoe National Forest:

No building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire.

The use of a portable lantern or stove using gas, jellied petroleum, or pressurized liquid fuel within a Developed Recreation Site (such as an official campground listed below) is allowed. A valid California Campfire Permit is required.

While popular activities such as hunting, hiking, boating, and other types of general recreation are now allowed across the Tahoe National Forest, Dispersed camping and Target Shooting prohibitions have been extended through Nov. 1, 2021. These prohibitions include:

No camping outside of developed campgrounds. A list of open, developed campgrounds is provided below. There is one exception to this prohibition:

Dispersed camping within 300 feet of the Pacific Crest Trail is allowed.

No target shooting. Discharging a firearm, air rifle, or gas gun, except while engaged in a lawful hunt pursuant to state, and federal law and regulations, is prohibited.

Developed Recreation Sites

The following campgrounds are open and available to use stoves with a California Campfire Permit.

YUBA RIVER RANGER DISTRICT

RECREATION SITES

1. Berger Campground

2. Big Bend Campground

3. Cal Ida Campground

4. Camp Chrystalis

5. Canyon Creek Campground

6. Carlton Flat Campground

7. Carr/Feeley Lake Campground

8. China Flat Cabins

9. Convict Flat Day Use Area

10. Dark Day Campground/Day Use Area

11. Diablo Campground

12. High Sierra Schaffer Camp

13. Hornswoggle Campground

14. Fiddle Creek Campground

15. Fuller Lake Day Use Area

16. Hampshire Rocks Campground

17. Indian Springs Campground

18. Indian Valley Campground

19. Indian Valley Outpost

20. Jackson Creek Campground

21. Kokanee Cabins

22. Liahona Camp

23. Lindsey Lake Campground

24. Loganville Campground

25. Pack Saddle Campground

26. Packer Lake Day Use Area

27. Packer Lake Road Boy Scout Camp

28. Packer Lake Road Girl Scout Camp

29. Packer Lake Resort

30. Petra Spring Camp

31. Rocky Rest Campground

32. Rucker Lake Campground

33. San Francisco Field Campus

34. Sardine Campground

35. Sardine Lake Resort

36. Sand Pond Day Use Area

37. Salmon Creek Campground

38. Salmon Lake Resort

39. School House Campground

40. Skillman Campground

41. Sterling Lake Boy Scout Camp

42. Sterling Lake Campground

43. Union Flat Campground

44. White Cloud Campground

45. Wild Plum Campground

TRUCKEE RANGER DISTRICT

RECREATION SITES

1. Boca Campground

2. Boca Rest Campground

3. Boca Springs Campground

4. Boyington Mill Campground

5. Emigrant Group Campground

6. Goose Meadows Campground

7. Granite Flat Campground

8. Lakeside Campground

9. Logger Campground

10. Prosser Campground

11. Prosser Ranch Group Campground

12. Silver Creek Campground

AMERICAN RIVER RANGER DISTRICT

RECREATION SITES

1. Ahart Campground

2. Big Reservoir Campground

3. Brimstone OHV Staging Area

4. Coyote Group Campground

5. Forbes Creek Group Campground

6. French Meadows Campground

7. Gates Group Campground

8. Giant Gap Campground

9. Lewis Campground

10. Manzanita Day Use Picnic Area

11. Morning Star Campground

12. Parker Flat Staging Area

13. Shirttail Creek Campground

14. Sugar Pine Staging Area.

SIERRAVILE RANGER DISTRICT

RECREATION SITES

1. Aspen Group Campground

2. Cold Creek Campground

3. Cottonwood Campground

4. East Meadows Campground

5. Findley Campground

6. Fir Top Campground

7. Lower Little Truckee Campground

8. Meadow Lake Campground

9. Meadow Lake Group Campground

10. Meadow Lake Shore Shoreline Sites

11. Pass Creek Campground

12. Pass Creek Overflow Campground

13. Silver Tip Group Campground

14. Upper Little Truckee Campground

15. Woodcamp Campground

16. Wheeler Sheep Camp

Source: Tahoe National Forest

No growth on Caldor Fire despite poor weather conditions

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — While crews in the east zone of the Caldor Fire continue to have success, poor weather conditions outside of the Basin have posed a challenge for crews in the west zone.

On Monday, the area of Fallen Leaf Road from Tahoe Mountain Road to the end of Fallen Leaf Road was reduced to a warning.

Air support provided assistance near Trimmer Peak and around the Margret Lake area. Teams continued to work on suppression repair efforts in Christmas Valley, High Meadows, Old Pump Road, and Cold Creek.

Overnight, crews were able to patrol the perimeter and ensure the fire didn’t grow.

Despite the conditions, the fire had not grown from Monday to Tuesday morning. The fire was at 219,267 acres, and 68% contained.

“(On Tuesday), line construction and mop up will continue on uncontained fire edges northwest of Caples Lake, on the east side of Trimmer Peak as well as on the isolated heat in and near Desolation Wilderness,” the morning situation report stated.

However, in the west zone winds and day conditions allowed for increased fire activity Monday afternoon and into the night.

“Fuels continued to smolder and creep away from control lines. Large diameter dead and down fuels continued to smolder and burn. Steep and rugged terrain and critically dry fuel conditions have presented control challenges, slowing the construction of direct lines in some areas,” the morning report stated.

Crews are focused on mopping up and building more control lines as the poor weather conditions are forecast to continue for the next few days.

The Tahoe Daily Tribune is a sister publication of the Sierra Sun

Cal Fire awards $138M for fire prevention; Nevada County receives more than $1M

From a release:

As part of California’s strategy to reduce the size and severity of wildfires, Cal Fire announced it will direct nearly $138 million in funding for 105 local fire prevention projects across the state.

“This year, wildfires have once again been extremely severe and damaging, which only highlights our continued need to perform more community-based fire prevention projects,” said Chief Thomas Porter, Cal Fire director, in a news release. “Our wildfire and forest strategy includes funding these types of fire prevention projects to reduce the severity of wildfires and harden our communities.”

Cal Fire’s Fire Prevention Grants enable local organizations such as fire safe councils to implement activities that address the risk of wildfire and reduce wildfire potential for communities. Funded activities include fuel reduction, wildfire planning and fire prevention education. The projects meet the goals and objectives of California’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan, as well as the state’s Strategic Fire Plan.

SOUTH COUNTY PROJECT

Nevada County received $1,038,230 for the “South County Shaded Fuel Break” project.

The South County Shaded Fuel Break is a 339-acre project and is slated to treat 226 parcels, valued at $169,369,752, which will serve as a vital wildfire holding point and key evacuation route for residents. The fuel break is strategically designed to provide egress for a highly populated wildland urban interface region, while providing firefighters a place to defend lives and property from a wildfire. Through fuels reduction on highly trafficked roadways, the aim is to avoid a severe wildfire altogether, thereby reducing greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Click here a complete list of 2021 Fire Prevention Grant recipients: https://www.fire.ca.gov/media/ruhkljgy/fy-2020-21-cci-fire-prevention-grant-recipient-list-accessible-9-9-2021.pdf

In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 85 providing $536 million in early action funding to accelerate forest health, fire prevention and climate resiliency projects. Cal Fire worked swiftly to ensure this funding could be implemented on the ground as soon as possible.

The “early action funding” allocated $123 million for Cal Fire’s Fire Prevention Grant Program, including $50 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for California Climate Investments, with an additional $73 million coming from the state’s general fund.

California Climate Investments is a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities. An additional $14.8 million is being reallocated for grants from the department’s GGRF allocation from 2020-21 budget.

Source: Cal Fire

Cal Fire: Bennett Fire in Grass Valley was ‘human caused’

The Bennett Fire started in Nevada County on Aug. 25 at 3:31 p.m. and burned a total of 59.3 acres. The fire was 100% contained on Aug. 29.

Cal Fire investigators were immediately dispatched to the fire and began working to determine the origin and cause of the fire. This is a meticulous process requiring investigators to examine credible information to conclusively identify a factual cause.

It has been determined that the Bennett Fire is human caused and started along the roadway in two separate locations of East Bennett Road in Grass Valley. Investigators from the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, and Grass Valley Police Department are assisting Cal Fire investigators.

Cal Fire also recently determined that the River Fire, which burned 2,619 acres, also was human caused.

This is an active case and officials are asking for the public’s help for any additional information regarding suspicious vehicles seen on East Bennett Road at the time of the fire. Anyone with additional information regarding this investigation is encouraged to contact our Cal Fire Nevada Yuba Placer Investigation Bureau at 530-889-0111 extension 1021.

Source: Cal Fire

Lightning causes spot fires: Firefighters respond to handful of blazes after rainfall

Rain from Grass Valley’s thunderstorms Thursday night was not without cost, as Cal Fire’s Nevada-Placer-Yuba Unit on Friday continued to receive calls about fires started from lightning strikes across the region.

Public Information Officer Mary Eldridge said lightning strikes do not necessarily result in fire ignition right away. Struck trees can smolder for hours before turning to flame.

Eldridge did not have a total number of calls made since the storms began Thursday night, but expected the demand for fire response to continue into Saturday morning.

“We’re still rolling,” Eldridge said. “It might take time for people to see smoke from some of the (fires). That’s why we’re getting calls even though the lightning struck some time ago.”

Grass Valley saw about a tenth of an inch of rain Thursday night and Friday. In contrast, Blue Canyon, to the east, saw over three-fourths of an inch.

Eldridge said parts of her unit have also been dispatched to the Tahoe National Forest to extinguish any risk posed by smoldering remnants of the lightning strikes.

As many prepared their morning coffee, firefighters from the Nevada-Placer-Yuba County Unit subdued blazes in Granite Bay, the Peardale/Chicago Park area, as well as Dobbins in Yuba County.

“We still have one out on Iowa Hill that they’re looking at,” Eldridge said of a half-acre burn first responders quickly contained and were mopping up Friday afternoon.

Eldridge said the moisture and the regular “humidity recovery” afforded to the landscape in the mornings was mildly helpful to those fighting local sparks, and the 218,459-acre Caldor blaze to the southeast, as well.

“Precipitation also assisted them in continuing their suppression efforts,” Eldridge said of designated units responding to the El Dorado County fire that continues to burn. “(The moisture) slows the spread.”

CAUSE OF FIRE

After 26 days, the Caldor Fire is 56% contained. So far, first responders have steered the blaze away from high-value and highly populated areas of the California-Nevada state line. The cause of the fire that resulted in over 20,000 people’s evacuations is still undetermined.

Fire officials in western Nevada County announced that a preliminary investigation identifies a human cause for the 2,619-acre River Fire that began at the Bear River Campground Aug. 4.

Eldridge said although the investigation is ongoing, investigators identified a campfire spot as the origin point of the nine-day long burn that resulted in evacuations.

“If you look ahead of you it starts at the campsite, and if you turn around there’s nothing behind you,” Eldridge said. “The fire burned in the direction of the wind that blew.”

According to the National Weather Service, Friday’s winds called for a Red Flag Warning across the region until 11 p.m. that night.

Meteorologist Cory Mueller said the gusts were up to 20 miles per hour in Grass Valley and progressed upward with altitude into eastern county.

Mueller said that humidity would return to the 20% range for the next two evenings, offering marginal relief to first responders in the north and south fighting the Dixie and Caldor fires, respectively.

“Next week, humidity will return to the teens during the day time,“ Mueller said.

Although the Grass Valley canyon area is more humid than it has been, the arid California landscape needs even more moisture.

“There was higher humidity and rain in the Grass Valley canyon area, but not enough,” Mueller said. “It helped — but, yeah — we need more.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com

River Fire ‘human caused’, Cal Fire says

FILE PHOTO — The River Fire quickly burns through light flashy brush and into the ladder fuels before reaching tree canopies in a matter of seconds off of Dog Bar Road and Taylor Crossing Road.

From a release:

The River Fire started in Placer County at 1:59 p.m. Aug. 4 and burned a total of 2,619 acres. 142 structures were destroyed in Placer and Nevada counties. The fire was contained on Aug. 13.

Cal Fire/Placer County Fire Department investigators were immediately dispatched to the River Fire and began working to determine the origin and cause of the fire. This is a meticulous process requiring investigators to examine credible information to conclusively identify a factual cause.

It has been determined that the River Fire started in the overnight camping area of the Bear River Campground and was human caused. This is an active case, and Cal Fire investigators will continue to work on determining the specific details leading to the cause of the fire.

Source: Cal Fire

Bridge Fire in mop-up stage, cause remains unknown (Video)

Vehicles and pedestrians make their way along Highway 49 through the Auburn State Recreation Area following the start of the Bridge Fire Sunday afternoon in the American River Canyon. The fire is now in the mop up stage.
Photo: Elias Funez

Update Wednesday 8:22 a.m.:

The Bridge Fire is 50% contained as of Wednesday morning and saw no growth overnight, remaining at 411 acres, according to Cal Fire.

Initially Posted:

The Bridge Fire had burned 411 acres and was 25% contained as of Tuesday morning, as Cal Fire officials expressed confidence that the blaze is now in the mop-up stage.

With steady progress being made by firefighters over the previous two days, combined with generally favorable weather, Placer County authorities were able to lift all evacuations from the Bridge Fire Monday evening, although the Auburn State Recreation Area — including Lake Clementine — remains closed for now, according to a Cal Fire press release.

“The fire exhibited minimal activity during the overnight operational period,” the release said. “Areas where heat was observed were on islands that were isolated to the interior of the burn perimeter. Fire personnel focused their efforts on mop-up of the fire, including these interior islands of heat.”

However, officials cautioned that an uptick in wind activity, along with especially dry conditions predicted in Tuesday’s weather forecast, could hamper efforts to extinguish the blaze and also increase the possibility of new hot spots erupting.

“High temperatures and moderate winds will impact the fire area today, increasing the risk of flare ups. Residents should remain vigilant and prepared,” said John Michelini, an official with the Foresthill Fire District, who posted a statement on the fire’s status.

“A heat advisory has been issued in the Sacramento Valley due to high temperatures through Thursday evening. Combined with low humidities, full mop up and containment of the fire is a priority,” Cal Fire’s release said.

Virtually all road closures impacted by the Bridge Fire have subsequently been reopened, although Old Foresthill Road remains closed between Highway 49 and Foresthill Road.

Officials said that the fire’s cause is unknown and remains under investigation, refuting rumors circulated on social media that one or more suspects had been arrested for arson in connection with the Bridge Fire.

“Contrary to information on social media, there are no identified suspects and there have been no arrests,” Michelini said. “The cause is undetermined at this time.”

Mary Eldridge, a spokesperson for Cal Fire, said that no suspects are under investigation for causing the Bridge Fire.

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at swyer@theunion.com

Fire Safe Council gets $5M grant: State grant helps Fire Safe Council initiate new project, balance budget

A state grant has allowed the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County to begin a new wildfire prevention project, even as it seeks to allay concerns by county officials over the nonprofit’s accounting procedures.

In an Aug. 26 Board of Directors meeting, Executive Director Jamie Jones announced that the council had been selected as one of 27 statewide to be a recipient of Cal Fire’s Forest Health Grant Awards. The grant is for $4.967 million. The Forest Health program, which Cal Fire initiated earlier this year, awarded a total of $160 million in grants between the 27 different entities to help local officials with forest maintenance and conservation.

The $4.9 million grant was awarded to the Fire Safe Council to fund a specific fuel reduction and prescribed burn project that will cover 1,800 acres in western Nevada County, the council said in a press release. The council will undertake the project — officially called “Western Nevada County Forest Health Objectives“ — in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the county’s Firewise Communities.

The council is allocating 12% of the grant to its own administrative budget, while the rest of the funds will go toward the Forest Health project, Jones said.

The council said that the new project is intended to further the larger scale goal of reducing fire hazards within the Western Nevada County Community Defense Zone, an approximately 24,000-acre region of wildland-urban interface considered at high risk for wildfire due to the dense foliage and vegetation present in this area. Additionally, the council and the Forest Service hope the Forest Health project strengthens ecosystems in heavily forested areas.

“Restoring forest land creates a healthier ecosystem for native species of plants and animals, improves biodiversity, reduces strain on the watershed, and provides better protection from wildfire to communities by reducing the intensity of fire that may pass through that forest land,” the press release states. “Restoring this much forest land to a healthier state takes a major effort with partners that excel at collaboration.”

IMPACT ON BUDGET

With 12% of the $4.9 million award (approximately $590,000) going directly to the council’s budget, the Cal Fire grant is expected to provide a healthy boost to the nonprofit’s bottom line, after questions were raised earlier this year regarding the council’s financial viability.

In a letter addressed to the the council’s Board of Directors earlier this year, Roby Pracht, a former accountant for the organization, claimed that the council’s debts were vastly exceeding its revenues, due primarily to what the accountant described as the organization’s systematic “neglect of proper nonprofit accounting” procedures.

While Jones and Board of Directors chairman Don Thane have denied the ex-accountant’s claims of budgetary mismanagement, the directors said in their Aug. 26 meeting that the council’s financial reports as of March 2021 indicated a negative cashflow of $172,000.

However, with the influx of revenue from the Forest Health grant, Jones announced in the meeting that the council’s bottom line is now in a much more favorable position than before. The nonprofit’s financial statements as of August appear to show that revenues now exceed liabilities by approximately $181,000.

COUNTY SUSPENDING FUNDING

Jones and the other directors previously said that the nonprofit still has work to do in terms of fixing a number of outstanding issues with its accounting procedures, per the recommendations of a third-party auditor.

That audit — which the council itself requested to address both the allegations of of Pracht’s letter as well as a formal inquiry by the county into the allegations — recommended that the council ensure that pay increases and benefits received by Jones are properly processed in accordance with IRS payroll guidelines. The auditor also suggested that the council correct various other errors, including the misreporting of a federal loan, which the council had incorrectly documented as revenue instead of debt. Council directors unanimously voted to implement the auditor’s recommendations at the organization’s last meeting.

The county, in a letter sent to the council on Aug. 23, announced that it would not enter into any new contracts with the nonprofit until it was confident that all of the accounting issues — including the allegations made in Pracht’s letter — had been addressed.

Stephen Monaghan, the county’s chief information officer, said that $23,000 to 30,000 in tax-free general purpose funding that the county normally provides to the council is currently being withheld, along with certain federal and state mitigation grants that the council normally receives through the county.

“The county has applied for various FEMA and state Cal Fire mitigation grants,” Monaghan said in a statement. “Some of these grants are starting to be awarded. FSC is a strategic and major partner with the county to deliver the projects. These new funds and thus new projects are on hold right now.”

In addition to the suspension of this funding from the county, some of the council’s programs — such as a 100-acre defensible space project that the nonprofit was going to implement around the homes of 45 county residents — have been temporarily put on hold until the county sees the Board of Directors address the accounting issues, Monaghan said.

However, he emphasized that the majority of programs that the council conducts with the county, such as its green waste disposal service and its chipping programs, are not likely to be impacted.

Monaghan expressed confidence that the council will resolve all of the accounting issues in a matter of weeks, which would allow the county to unfreeze the withheld funding and resume its normal level of partnership with the nonprofit.

“We need to get this issue behind us so we can get to work on these important projects,” he said. “FSC is a major and strategic county partner with addressing our wildfire threats and community education on it. We look forward to quickly resolving this issue and putting our grant funds to work for the community together.”

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at swyer@theunion.com

 

Bridge Fire containment grows to 25%

Update at 7:10 a.m. Tuesday

The Bridge Fire remains at 411 acres and containment grew to 25% Tuesday morning, according to Cal Fire.

UPDATE at 7:30 p.m. Monday

From Cal Fire: A few hot spots remained visible on the Bridge Fire today, but were located well within the interior of the current fire perimeter. Firefighters efforts focused on mopup of these hot spots on all portions of the fire. Additionally, fire personnel worked to improve and build containment lines, resulting in the increased containment.

The evacuation orders and evacuation warnings have been lifted in all areas of the fire. However, the Auburn State Recreation Area remains closed.

Foresthill Road has also reopened, and to ensure safety of fire personnel, a temporary speed limit of 25 mph from Lincoln Way to Upper Lake Clementine is in place. Stopping, parking, or loitering is not permissible on Foresthill Road. Old Foresthill Road from Highway 49 to Foresthill Road remains closed.

Initially posted

The Bridge Fire expanded in size overnight, covering 300 acres by Monday morning, but Cal Fire officials expressed confidence about the situation, with the blaze’s forward progress stopped by early Monday afternoon.

“We’re at 5% containment right now, but we expect that containment to continue to go up for the rest of today and into the night hours,” said Brian Estes, a chief with Cal Fire’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit.

All evacuation orders issued on Sunday were lifted at around 5:30 p.m. Monday evening per a press release issued by Cal Fire. The Auburn State Recreation Area remains closed for the time being, as does the section of Old Foresthill Road between Highway 49 and Foresthill Road, the release said.

While the blaze’s spread was extremely rapid Sunday afternoon, jumping from 30 to over 200 acres within just two hours, the fire’s progress had slowed considerably by Monday morning.

In large part, the threat the Bridge Fire posed to more densely populated areas of Placer County was neutralized after firefighters were able to establish a containment line around the lower end of the fire near Old Auburn Foresthill Road overnight, Estes said. Around 350 Cal Fire personnel remained on the ground Monday to combat the blaze, with assistance from some air units, the fire chief added.

Additionally, while low humidity levels and scorchingly dry conditions have aided the Bridge Fire’s spread, wind activity on Monday did not severely hamper firefighter’s efforts, said Cal Fire spokesperson Mary Eldridge.

The Bridge Fire’s level of impact to human habitation has been fairly minimal thus far, with just one minor injury to a firefighter and no homes or buildings suffering any damage, per a Cal Fire social media release.

While all visitors around Lake Clementine had to be evacuated Sunday afternoon as the fire exploded in size, just three residences in total were evacuated, according to Sheriff’s Lt. Nelson Resendes.

The Bridge Fire is expected to be fully contained by Sept. 15, Cal Fire said in its release. The cause of the fire is unknown, and remains under investigation.

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer for The Union. He can be reached at swyer@theunion.com

Crews from Cal Fire and Growlersburg Conservation Camp in Georgetown managing the Bridge Fire Sunday afternoon in Auburn.
Photo by Zachary Krahmer/www.zachkrahmer.com
The Bridge Fire burning in Auburn Sunday afternoon.
Photo submitted by Lauren Rice
Smoke coming from a spot fire, caused by the Bridge Fire, near the Forest Hill area.
Submitted by Dan Schricker
The Bridge Fire, located near the Foresthill Bridge in Auburn, began just before 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Photo by Zachary Krahmer/www.zachkrahmer.com