The heat is on |

The heat is on

Excessive summer heat and drifting wildfire smoke predicted for today have weather officials urging Nevada County residents to drink plenty of water and stay inside with air conditioning.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento issued the heat warning Tuesday, after predicting temperatures up to 115 in the Sacramento Valley and highs pushing 100 in the northern Sierra foothills.

Temperatures in some areas tonight are predicted in the upper 70s to low 80s. Daytime high temperatures are expected to cool slightly beginning Friday but remain in the 90s through the weekend.

Meanwhile, 323 fires continue to scorch nearly 631,000 acres in California, though enough have been contained that the people working on them has declined from more than 21,000 over the weekend to 18,000 on Tuesday, officials from the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Winds that picked up Monday night prompted red flag warnings along the coastal region from San Benito County to the Oregon border; the warnings remain in effect through Wednesday evening.

The weather system could push excess smoke out of the area, but could also bring smoke into the county from existing blazes. The high-pressure system also will heighten fire conditions, which could produce more blazes or fan existing ones.

The ozone level could easily spike tonight, and combined with wildfire smoke, would produce unhealthy air for all.

Ozone quality from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday was unhealthy for sensitive individuals, according to the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District in Grass Valley. Those people include pregnant women, those with heart or lung conditions, children, the elderly and athletes.

The cause of the troubling weather is a high-pressure system setting up over the entire West, said Mike Smith, a meteorologist with the weather service in Sacramento.

“In addition to the very warm temperatures we’re getting, we’ll also be getting a little bit of offshore wind … which keeps the moist marine air from coming inland.”

Placer fires growing

That weather is creating problems for firefighters, especially in Plumas County.

“The Canyon Complex has just exploded,” said Tim Fike, chief of Nevada County Consolidated Fire District. The complex has grown to almost 19,000 acres, much of it in steep terrain.

Five fire engine crews from Nevada County are battling those blazes, with members from Consolidated, Higgins, Penn Valley, Peardale-Chicago Park and Ophir Hill fire departments, Fike said.

Fike was leaving for the Cub Complex on the Lassen National Forest near Chester, in Plumas County.

Closer to Nevada County, the American River Complex blazes in Placer County near Blue Canyon were expected to get more firefighters and equipment after continuing to spread Monday and Tuesday, according to the Tahoe National Forest.

The 6,100-acre Government Springs Fire remains at 10 percent contained, and the 2,300-acre Westville Fire remains at 15 percent handled. Helicopters and air tankers dropped 61,000 gallons of fire retardant on those blazes to stop them from spreading toward Interstate 80.

Residents in that area are being asked not to interfere with helicopter operations at the Blue Canyon Airport, forestry officials said. Information about the American River Complex can be obtained at the entrance to the airport and at the Shell Station on I-80 at Nyack.

Smoke from those fires has been drifting into Nevada County for days and may continue, depending on shifting winds.

Officials expect to contain the Government Springs Fire by the end of July.

Evacuations near Oroville

In Butte County, hundreds of residents were leaving the small town of Concow, on Highway 70 near Paradise, Monday and Tuesday night after authorities issued an immediate evacuation advisory when winds shifted.

That fire is part of the Butte Lightning Complex, a system of fires that have burned more than 45 square miles. They are 55 percent contained.

Another fire in the mountains between Oroville and Paradise caused the Butte County Sheriff to issue an evacuation order at noon Tuesday for the hamlets of Berry Creek, Milsap Bar and Brush Creek.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail or call 477-4327.

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