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More lightning strikes feared

Just as firefighters are getting a handle on the 2,800 acres of wildfires in the Yuba River Complex sparked by lightning a week ago, another round of dry lightning storms could produce more blazes and smoke over the weekend in Nevada and Sierra counties.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento on Friday declared a fire weather watch for the foothills and a red flag fire warning for the upper Sierra through Sunday night.

The bulk of the activity is predicted for the upper Sierra, where most of last weekend’s fires were started by lightning strikes like those on the Yuba River Complex.



In addition, the Northern Air Quality Management District issued an air quality warning Friday that will remain through Monday. Smoke particulates have put the air quality index in the hazardous range, according to Joe Fish at the district.

Ozone levels also continue to be in the unhealthy category for sensitive individuals, which includes the elderly, children, pregnant women, athletes and people with lung and heart conditions.




Residents should stay indoors until they can no longer see or smell the smoke from the fires, urged Fish and Nevada County Public Health Officer Dr. Joseph Iser.

In addition, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit suspended all burn permits Friday as of July 1 at 8 a.m.

“Due to unseasonably dry fuel conditions and low moisture, I advise all residents to take the time now to protect their homes from wildfire by creating a defensible space,” said Brad Harris, the unit’s chief.

Meanwhile, almost 700 firefighters made more progress on the Yuba River Complex Thursday. It is now 35-percent contained, according to Ann Westling of the Tahoe National Forest.

The 189-acre 25 Fire, near Camptonville, is fully contained. The 950-acre Scotchman Fire that threatened the town of Washington is 45-percent contained, Westling said.

The 1,300-acre Fall Fire near Bowman Lake is 35-percent contained and the 350-acre Celina Fire near Graniteville is 25-percent contained, she added.

“Now with the inversion layer lifting and (with) the change in the weather, we’ll have more active fire behavior, and that has everyone concerned,” Westling said.

Despite the new round of storms which could produce winds to move smoke out of the area, the National Weather Service is predicting the pall will continue to hang over Northern California for several days.

Three fires raging with no containment on almost 2,200 acres at the American River Complex in Placer County are adding to the local air problem.

In Plumas County, 7,664 acres of fires were burning in steep terrain, but firefighters were beginning to make progress.

And fires in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest are adding to the smoky mix, said Battalion Chief Tom Browning of Nevada County Consolidated Fire Protection District. Browning just returned from two weeks of service with the management team on that fire complex, he said.

“I drove over (on Thursday) from Hayfork, and the (air quality) conditions never changed. It’s not going to change for a while,” Browning said.

According to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office, about 15,584 people are battling blazes in California with 1,119 engines, 423 crews, 92 helicopters, 225 bulldozers and 398 water tenders.

Firefighters from Tennessee, Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, as well as from around California are fighting blazes in the Yuba River Complex.

To help map the fires and see what has been going on them, Beale Air Force Base has been flying U-2 and Global Hawk surveillance aircraft over the blazes.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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