Skies clear and hospitality grows |

Skies clear and hospitality grows

Skies began clearing even more Monday as crews continued making major progress on the Yuba River Complex of wildfires, but an air quality advisory has been extended through today by local officials.

While the blazes raged, almost 1,000 firefighters, support crews and officials at the Nevada County Fairgrounds command post were learning about Nevada County hospitality as they came and went to work.

Musicians played Sunday and Monday night at stress relief concerts for the crews, and the area was festooned with banners from locals thanking them for their efforts. Cookies were being baked by the dozen for the weary fire troops.

One of the banners greeting firefighters as they re-entered camp was created by Jaime Miller of Grass Valley and her friend, Marija Vulfs of Nevada City. The women gathered signatures at area grocery stores for the banner before taking it to the Fairgrounds for display.

“I live just past the Fairgrounds, and I noticed how many fire trucks and firemen there were camping there and I thought it would be a nice thing to do,” Miller said.

Part-time local music promoter John Coulter got Barbara Lynn and Roger Schimoff to play jazz standards Sunday night with their band, Barbara Lynn and Oceans 3.

“They really liked it,” Lynn said Monday. “They came in and we could see little white teeth from all those blackened faces. We played for about three hours.”

“You should see the smiles on their faces,” Coulter said. “They come in looking like coal and they said some of the terrain they were on was so steep they had things rolling on them.

“I personally thank them,” Coulter said. “I’m just letting them know everybody in Nevada County appreciates them.”

Coulter said his next plan is to put on a benefit concert with local musicians for the non-profits and civic groups that will lose money by not being able to sell fireworks in Grass Valley and Nevada City this year.

Both cities have banned their sale and use for the rest of the year because of red-flag fire conditions. Coulter said he was unsure when the concert would be but would make it public when details are ironed out.

While the Yuba River Complex of 3,445 acres is at least 60 percent contained, the Canyon Complex of 12,000 acres in Plumas County was only 5 percent contained.

The American River Complex in Placer County was only 10 percent contained, and the 2,600-acre Government fire on that complex was getting more intense and could endanger Blue Canyon on Interstate 80.

These fires and many others in Northern California could easily bring additional smoke to Nevada County despite the progress here.

Particulate levels are dropping as the smoke dissipates, but high ozone levels continue, putting air quality in the unhealthy for sensitive individuals range, Joe Fish at the district said Monday.

As a result, elderly, children, pregnant women, athletes, asthmatics and those with pre-existing lung and heart conditions should avoid or limit outdoor activities. Fish said others might want to follow suit because of possible residual effects from a week’s worth of bad air.

On Sunday firefighters began setting backfires on the Scotchman and Fall fires, which allowed for more containment, according to the Tahoe National Forest. Also, the amount of predicted lightning strikes over the weekend did not develop as thought and no new fires started.

The Fall Fire near Bowman Lake is the largest in the complex at 1,551 acres and was 65 percent contained late Monday.

The Scotchman Fire near Washington was at 1,190 acres and 58 percent contained. The Celina Fire near Graniteville was at 371 acres and 85 percent contained.

The fires continue to have Bowman Road and the Maybert Road near Washington closed. Washington Road from Highway 20 is now open, however.

A heliport with a temporary plant to mix fire retardant has been set up in Bear Valley just below the Highway 20 and Interstate 80 intersection. Large helicopters are dropping 1,200 to 1,500 gallons of the retardant on the Yuba complex blazes to slow them while ground crews improve fire lines.

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

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