NorCal fires finally dwindling |

NorCal fires finally dwindling

Fires surrounding Nevada County are getting closer to containment – and the air quality is improving because of it.

The Fall Fire near Bowman Lake in Nevada County was 100 percent contained late Tuesday afternoon, but Ann Westling of the Tahoe National Forest said smoke spots on the 1,980-acre blaze will be visible for many weeks.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento continued to predict hazy conditions and patchy smoke through the weekend.

Triple-digit temperatures present during the height of the fires have dipped into the 90s and are expected to stay there through Monday.

The Northern Sierra Air Quality District in Grass Valley continues to predict better air for the week. The district noted again Tuesday that, if you can smell or see smoke in the air, the quality is not good and possibly dangerous.

District figures for July 1 through July 14 show Nevada County had one very unhealthy air day, six in the unhealthy range and four in the range that was unhealthy for sensitive people. Only July 4 was rated good, and two other days were deemed moderate.

The Government Springs / Westville fire in Placer County has spread to 28 square miles and is 40-percent contained. A severe lack of resources and steep terrain kept it at 10-percent containment for nearly three weeks after the fire broke out June 21.

The 54,000 acres of fires in Butte and Plumas counties are 75-percent contained, and progress has been made on those.

On the central coast, fire crews started a controlled burn in the Los Padres National Forest on Tuesday in hopes of halting the massive wildfire’s rapid spread through the ravaged hills.

The lightning-sparked blaze has consumed 190 square miles of federal land and came dangerously close to the coastal community of Big Sur before spreading inland.

The fire, which has burned for more than three weeks, is 61 percent contained, said Kathy Hilliker, spokeswoman for Monterey County Emergency Services.

In Butte County, fires have destroyed dozens of homes, and at least one person was found dead after the blaze swept through the rural community of Concow. After completing an autopsy, the county coroner said Tuesday that he likely won’t be able to determine a cause of death because the body was so badly burned.

The wildfires since June 21 are “the largest single fire event in history for California,” said Kelly Houston, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

About 2,010 blazes have burned statewide since a massive lightning storm struck on June 21, ravaging nearly 1,400 square miles, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The updated number of fires reflects more accurate information obtained as crews make progress on the ground.

“Progress is really being made. We’ve really turned a corner,” said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“But we have to remember this is just July, and our biggest fires are historically in September and October. We really have to, as a state, not become complacent yet.”

To help fund the firefighting effort, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services approved Tuesday the release of $41.5 million public assistance money to the California fire agency.

The funds will cover the cost of state firefighting overtime pay, equipment, materials and expenses borne by local fire agencies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail or call 477-4237.

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