Smoke to return starting Sunday
With temperatures expected to rise to 101 degrees in the coming week and firefighters planning burnout operations to stop fires in Placer County this weekend, smoky air is expected to settle over the foothills again starting Sunday, weather and fire officials said.
Temperatures could reach as high as 100 degrees in the foothills and 110 in the Central Valley starting Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. Meanwhile, a high pressure mass is expected to start building over Northern California on Sunday.
“Smoke from the wildfires burning across the region will be trapped below a strong temperature inversion associated with the strong high pressure,” the weather service said.
Meanwhile, the Gap Fire in Santa Barbara County continued to rage, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency there late Thursday. On Friday, he added to the 200 state National Guard troops he called out on Tuesday to assist nearly 20,000 firefighters already on the ground.
“Today, I’m ordering another 200 (National Guard troops) to begin reporting on Sunday,” Schwarzenegger said, speaking to the National Guard in McClellan, Calif.
People from 40 states are battling 1,781 fires that have scorched more than 520,800 acres and closed three highways. So far, 34 homes and one business have been destroyed – but nearly 11,000 homes are threatened across the state.
Areas of Monterey, Santa Barbara and Shasta counties are under evacuation orders, while residents are advised to prepare to leave in parts of Butte, Kern, Mendocino, Monterey and Plumas counties, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Health warning issued
Attempts to stall the Government Springs Fire in Placer County are expected to contribute to the smoke forecast to settle across the foothills next week.
And firefighters are trying to strengthen their line against the Westville Fire at Foresthill Divide Road, which was closed Friday afternoon, by burning out fuel before the advancing flames can get to it, the U.S. Forest Service reported.
The operations “will likely result in an increase in smoke in the area,” forestry officials said. Smoke also could increase in the Interstate 80 corridor.
A shift in wind intensified the fires in the steep canyons along the American River and hampered ability to gain ground against the Government Springs Fire, which has spread to 4,701 acres, the service reported.
“That’s the hottest corner. They’re doing a lot of water drops,” said Marian Swinney, public information officer for the Bureau of Land Management.
The Government Springs Fire has advanced to within three miles of Blue Canyon on I-80. It was 10 percent contained on Friday afternoon.
The Westville Fire has burned 1,025 acres and is 15 percent contained.
Earlier this week, a helicopter delivered aluminum sheeting that was wrapped around the 100-year-old Mumford Bar Cabin, perched close to a fire line. A rotor was damaged on a helicopter when it clipped a treetop during the delivery.
Helicopters are dipping water from Sugar Pine and Lake Valley reservoirs to help extinguish the fire, so people recreating there are asked to stay clear of operations.
A number of trails along the American River were closed Friday including the Euchre Bar, American Eagle, Italian Bar, Beacroft Trail and the American River Trail (east of Mumford Bar Trail toward Sailor Flat Trail).
Fall Fire nearing containment
In the Yuba River Complex, all fires except the Fall Fire have been contained. The Fall Fire continues to burn down toward Canyon Creek in steep, rugged terrain. So far, the Fall Fire has burned 1,980 acres and is 85 percent contained.
The Scotchman Fire has reached full containment. Crews will continue to mop up and patrol to ensure containment is maintained.
Bowman Road was re-opened in time for the holiday, allowing access to recreation areas on the east side of the road. All spur roads to the west of Bowman Road as well as Maybert Road leading east from the town of Washington remained closed. A total of 3,813 acres have burned within the complex.
In Plumas County, crews continued to make lines around the Canyon Complex fires which have burned 15,483 acres and was 61 percent contained Friday.
Some people had voluntarily evacuated near the 88-acre Belden fire. Burnouts were being considered after it was determined that using hand crews was too risky.
“It’s just too dangerous because of snags. There’s too many trees waiting to fall,” said Mike Lindbery, a spokesman for the Canyon Complex fire.
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