Facing the flames | TheUnion.com

Facing the flames

Progress was the word Thursday as firefighters held the 2,680-acre Yuba River Complex of fires in Nevada and Sierra counties, according Tahoe National Forest officials.

Some 628 firefighters now are battling the blazes, up from 300 earlier in the week.

“The weather has been very cooperative from a firefighting standpoint,” said Ann Westling of the Tahoe National Forest. “The fire behavior has slowed and allowed firefighters to do good work on the (fire) lines, but there is a potential for additional storms and lightning this weekend.”

Firefighters on the complex have managed to contain 40 percent of the 900-acre Scotchman Fire that once threatened the town of Washington and 87 percent of the 180-acre 25 Fire near Camptonville.

Still going strong on the complex last night was the 1,300-acre Fall Fire near Bowman Lake, which was only 12 percent contained, and the Celina Fire near Graniteville, which had grown to 300 acres and had zero containment.

The firefighters are from local municipalities, as well as Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, North Dakota, Montana and Idaho.

“There’s been an increase in sprained knees and ankles,” Westling said. “They’re working in very, very steep conditions.”

The Bowman Lake Road off Highway 20 near the Fall Fire is closed to all but the local residents. The Washington Road is closed to all but residents, property owners and people with campground reservations.

On the American River Complex in Placer County, the 1,000-acre Government Fire and the 50-acre Westville Fire were not contained at all and contributing to the overall air quality problem.

The smoke caused organizers of the Western States Endurance Run to cancel this weekend’s event. It’s the first time in its 35-year history that the grueling 100-mile race from Squaw Valley to Auburn has had to be canceled.

Portions of the Texas Hill Road from I-80 to the American River Canyon are closed as well, Westling said.

The City of Grass Valley has canceled its summer recreation program and the open swim session at Memorial Park Pool through the weekend.

Major fires in Plumas County near Quincy and in the Feather River Canyon have caused the closure of large portions of the Plumas National Forest. The fires caused the closure of Highway 70 through the canyon, but all other major routes were open.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visited Butte County, where 27 lightning-sparked blazes covering about 8 square miles were threatening 1,000 homes. The blazes, which were only 5 percent contained, cropped up just as the county was recovering from a fire that charred 74 homes and 36 square miles earlier this month.

Meanwhile a lightning-sparked wildfire in the Los Padres National Forest that had already burned 16 homes was moving closer to the scenic community of Big Sur, where it threatened another 500 houses.

Schwarzenegger visited Monterey County to assess the damage and said he has called in the National Guard to help fight the fires.

The state’s largest fire, located about 20 miles east of the Big Sur fire in a more remote area of the Los Padres forest, also continued to vex firefighters, having scorched more than 92 square miles and destroyed two homes. The blaze, sparked by an escaped campfire on June 8, was about 71 percent contained.

Monterey sheriff’s officials said mandatory evacuation orders were in place for both fires, but could not specify how many people were forced from their homes.

Fire crews from Nevada and Oregon have arrived to help California firefighters battle hundreds of blazes that are darkening skies over the San Francisco Bay area and Central Valley, causing public health officials to issue air-quality warnings.

Areas hit the hardest by the lightning storms also included Mendocino County, where 131 fires have burned more than 20 square miles and threatened about 500 homes, and the Shasta-Trinity Forest, where more than 150 fires have burned about 15.5 square miles and threatened 200 homes.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

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