Nevada County under red flag warning |

Nevada County under red flag warning

A discarded cigarette was determined to be the cause of a small grass fire that broke out alongside Highway 20 at Rough and Ready Highway near the Penn Valley Taco Shell. The fire was contained to a 10 x 10 foot area.
Elias Funez/

A red flag warning — meaning that critical fire weather conditions will occur — was issued by the National Weather Service from midnight Friday through 8 p.m. Sunday.

Hot temperatures and low humidity already had sparked two small spot fires in Nevada County by mid-afternoon Friday.

A discarded cigarette was determined to be the cause of a small grass fire that ignited off Highway 20 in Penn Valley near the Taco Shell, just before 1:30 p.m.

A large response, including air tankers and bulldozers, was initially dispatched but called off after a pair of Cal Fire engines and a Penn Valley Fire Protection District engine arrived on scene.

Firefighters at the scene witnessed bystanders trying to stomp out the fire, which was kept to within a 10-by-10-foot area.

Shortly after that, another small fire was reported off Highway 20 at the Gold Flat Road exit.

Adding strong winds to the mix is what triggers the red flag warning, with gusty wind and low humidity predicted through Sunday.

While the strongest winds are expected in the Sacramento Valley west of Interstate 5, locally gusty wind is also expected through the foothills, according to the weather service.

Daytime humidities will be in the single digits and teens with widespread moderate to poor overnight humidity recovery.

And that means high fire danger, of course. Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly, the weather service said, advising against any outdoor burning.

“Be careful with sparks,” forecaster Mike Kochasic said in a webinar discussing the building heat, advising against using lawnmowers or weed whackers. Kochasic also warned smokers to make sure to dispose of matches and cigarettes safely.

Saturday is predicted to reach a high near 94 degrees in Grass Valley. It will be relatively calm Saturday with the wind picking up overnight and possibly gusting as high as 21 mph.

Sunday is predicted to reach 95 degrees in Grass Valley and up to 98 degrees in Penn Valley, with winds gusting as high as 23 mph.

Relief is on the horizon, however. Cooler temperatures with higher humidity and lighter winds are expected early next week.

Multimedia reporter Elias Funez contributed to this report. Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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