Choking haze grips area |

Choking haze grips area

The smoky pall that settled over the foothills Sunday, fueled by Placer County fires and a thermal inversion, is expected to last at least through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Though the haze may seem to lessen occasionally, people can expect “poor air quality” during the week, the weather service said.

Temperatures could soar beyond 100 degrees during this week, with particularly high night temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District issued an air quality advisory urging western Nevada County residents to avoid or limit all outdoor activities.

The district had not updated its Web site Sunday to indicate whether it would extend the air quality advisory that was in effect since Wednesday. However, the advisory urged foothill residents to use common sense.

“As a general rule of thumb, consider this: If you see smoke and smell smoke, you are most likely breathing unhealthly levels of particulates,” the advisory said.

Firefighters also are bracing for more activity at fires in the region.

“Weather for this week is expected to become hotter and drier, with poor night-time humidity recovery,” said Larry Schmidt, spokesman at the Yuba River Complex fire command center.

More than 21,000 firefighters are battling blazes across California, with the largest fires continuing to scorch Los Padres National Forest in Santa Barbara County and the Big Sur area, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Though 1,400 fires were contained statewide, more than 330 continued to burn Sunday, CalFire reported.

Local fires continue to burn

The Fall Fire in the Yuba River Complex was 95 percent contained Sunday, as the fire continued to burn down toward Canyon Creek, Schmidt said. The Fall Fire is expected to be contained by Thursday, Schmidt added.

Meanwhile, the Government Springs Fire in Placer County raged with only 10 percent contained Sunday, said Marian Swinney, public information officer with the Bureau of Land Management.

“We expect very active fire behavior today, with spotting up to half a mile ahead of the fire,” she said Sunday.

Spotting occurs when winds carry live embers, creating new fires beyond the periphery of the main fire, said Brenda Bowen, a spokeswoman with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team that is overseeing the American River Complex fires.

The Government Springs Fire, which has already scorched 5,500 acres, continues to burn within three miles of Blue Canyon on Interstate 80, Swinney said.

Firefighters couldn’t carry out burnout operations they had planned over the weekend due to the winds, she added.

Additional firefighters arrived Friday to assist on the Westville Fire, in the same complex of fires and close to the Government Springs Fire, forest officials said. The Westville Fire nearly doubled in size over the weekend.

Fire staff leaves fairgrounds

With all but one fire contained in the Yuba River Complex, the command center has been pared down to 154 firefighters, seven engines, two water tenders and one helicopter – down from around 740 firefighters at its peak a week ago.

With that staff reduction, the center also was moved from the Nevada County Fairgrounds to the American River Complex command center at Yuba Gap, Tahoe National Forest officials said Sunday.

Wildfires caused by lightening strikes have wreaked havoc across California in the past two weeks, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County on Thursday.

Residents have been ordered to evacuate in Santa Barbara and Monterey counties, among other locations.

So far, 10,554 residences are in jeopardy and 34 homes have been destroyed statewide, CalFire officials reported.

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail or call 477-4229.

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