Smoke and wildfire update |

Smoke and wildfire update

PAT BUTLER, Staff Writer
DAVE MOLLER, Senior Staff Writer
and the Associated Press

Extra crews have been dispatched to the 450-acre Scotchman Fire in Nevada County to prevent any run the fire might take toward the town of Washington.

Tahoe National Forest spokeswoman Gina Torvinen at 3:30 p.m. said evacuations are not yet in order, but fire retardant was being dropped to stop the blaze from jumping Scotchman’s Creek and going into Washington.

“No one has been hurt and no structures have burned,” Torvinen said of the Yuba River Complex, which includes the Scotchman Fire and two other sizable blazes in the Nevada County area.

The Fall Fire near Bowman Lake in Nevada County has grown to 1,000 acres, but was holding at Bowman Road, Torvinen said. Bowman Road is under an advisory closure.

Two fires in Sierra County that were part of the complex were adding to the smoky conditions along with many others in Northern California this afternoon.

The 25 Fire north of Highway 49 near Camptonville was at 100 acres. The Celina Fire two mile norths of Graniteville was at 25 acres.

Other small fires inside the Yuba River Complex at Bald Mountain, Gaston, and the Omega areas have been put out.

There is no estimated time of containment for the large fires, Torvinen said.

Smoke from those three fires and others in Northern California caused particulate levels to increase and they could go into the danger zone today and Tuesday.

That caused the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District to issue an air quality alert through Tuesday. The alert was bolstered by high ozone levels overnight Sunday and Monday morning in the unhealthy for sensitive individuals range.

That means healthy people should not exercise strenuously outside through Tuesday. Sensitive individuals like the elderly, children, asthmatics, people with respiratory or heart problems and athletes should avoid outdoor activities, particularly long ones.

At one point Sunday the California Highway Patrol was evacuating campers and hikers from the Bowman Lake area, even though fire officials had not requested it.

Overall, 3,000 lightning strikes started 602 fires in Northern California over the weekend, according to CalFire and the Forest Service.

“They were all started by lightning,” said Ann Westling said of the Tahoe National Forest fires. “Actually, though, the Tahoe District didn’t get hit as hard as the other forests in the state.”

The lightning strikes started five other fires in eastern Nevada County, the largest being the Gaston Fire that burned 12 acres north of Highway 20. All of the smaller fires have been contained.

Cal-Fire crews battled 11 fires Sunday in Placer County. The fire of greatest concern was the Forest Hills Fire, which had burned 50 acres and was within five miles of the town of Forest Hills. Westland said that fire was 50 percent contained as of 7:15 p.m.

Another fire had spread across nearly 6 square miles by early Sunday after starting the previous afternoon in Napa County and quickly moving into a mostly rural area of Solano County.

That fire threatened more than 100 buildings as it fed on grassy woodland, said CalFire spokesman Roger Archey. It was 35 percent contained Sunday evening and had destroyed one home, officials said. Evacuations were ordered for some residents.

Wildfires have destroyed more than 175 homes in Northern California so far this year. Blazes started popping up in the region just as California’s unofficial fire season began in mid-May, following the state’s driest two-month period on record.

Two small blazes about 25 miles south of San Jose forced several residents from their homes Sunday. Both were partially contained, and officials said most residents would be let back into their homes by Monday. Those fires were also blamed on lightning.

Thunderstorms were responsible for as many as 75 fires in Shasta-Trinity National Forest. They ranged in size from less than an acre to more than a square mile. None immediately threatened homes, said Forest Service spokesman Michael Odle.

Mendocino County had as many as 90 fires, charring nearly 8 square miles, CalFire officials said.

South of San Francisco, a fire that destroyed homes and closed a stretch of highway was 90 percent contained after charring just less than a square mile. Evacuation orders were lifted Saturday, a day after roughly 2,000 people fled their homes.

It was the third major blaze to hit Santa Cruz County in the past month. A 520-acre blaze destroyed 11 buildings in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and a fire near Corralitos covered more than 4,200 acres and destroyed about 100 buildings.

Along the coast in the Los Padres National Forest, a wildfire burning since Saturday forced 75 homes and businesses to be evacuated. And just miles away, firefighters worked to stanch a huge fire that has destroyed two homes since it began two weeks ago. It was nearly 60 percent contained after charring 83 square miles.

Near the Nevada border, authorities said Sunday that they are studying a “person of interest” in last summer’s catastrophic Lake Tahoe wildfire but lack enough evidence to make an arrest.

Tuesday will mark the one-year anniversary of the blaze, which destroyed 254 homes, caused $140 million in property damage and scorched nearly 5 square miles. Investigators think the fire started with stray embers from an illegal campfire at a popular party spot.

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

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail or call 477-423

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