First red flag warning in a month issued |

First red flag warning in a month issued

Nevada County, along with much of the Northern Sierra Nevada, was issued its first red flag warning in about a month Wednesday due to the potential of dry lightning strikes with little to no rainfall.

Much of the day proved uneventful for area firefighters and resembled the light fire season that the county has experienced so far.

“This is more in line with a normal, traditional year,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief and Air Attack 230 co-pilot Jake Sjolund said. “We haven’t had that in a while.”

At the end of last week fuel moisture was five weeks behind what the area was at last year during this time, according to Sjolund.

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The distribution of moisture over the wet season has resulted in fewer calls to the air attack base.

“Our numbers are down, our activity is down,” Sjolund said.

The yearly average for retardant dropped from the Grass Valley Interagency Air Attack Base is 323,000 gallons. To date for this year the air attack base has dropped about 85,000 gallons of retardant.

Air attack base pilots responded to 360 incidents during last year’s fire season. They’ve responded to about one-third of those calls compared to this same time last year.

Sjolund referenced the recent Mule Fire which burned in the Bear River canyon near Alta Tuesday afternoon.

The fire was kept to a 10-by-30 foot space even though firefighters took a while to make access.

“It didn’t want to burn,” Sjolund said.

The goal of Cal Fire’s air attack is to help keep fires at 10 acres or less, which they do with a 97% success rate.

Air attack personnel are contracted to stay at the base until Nov. 1.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we stayed until November 1,” Sjolund said.

“Or later,” Air Attack 230 pilot Jeff Sheftal said, anticipating an increase in fire activity toward the end of the season.

“We’re not out of fire season yet,” Sjolund said.

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez email,, or call 530-477-4230.

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