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

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

As of Friday afternoon, Cal Fire’s Nevada-Placer-Yuba Unit was still receiving calls reporting fires started from lightning strikes across the region.

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.”


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

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