Winds, dry conditions fuel foothill blaze |

Winds, dry conditions fuel foothill blaze

Dry north winds caused a grass fire to run over 100 acres near the Nevada-Yuba county line Thursday and led area weather officials to issue a fire warning through Saturday.

Because of the winds, the National Weather Service in Sacramento issued a Red Flag Warning for fire along the western slope of the northern Sierra, including the Tahoe National Forest and the foothills beneath it.

The blaze of unknown origin broke out about 1:30 p.m. just off Highway 20 in Yuba County near Smartville and the intersection of Peoria and Scott Forbes roads. JoAnn Cartoscelli of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said three air tankers and a bulldozer quickly built a defensive ring around the fire, halting its spread.

“It went pretty fast,” Cartoscelli said. “People in Penn Valley complained about smoke,” but the blaze was controlled by 3:30 p.m.

No one was injured in the fire and no structures were threatened, Cartoscelli said. Two helicopters, three hand crews and seven engines from CDF and the Smartville and Loma Rica-Browns Valley fire departments converged on the flaming grass.

“The cool air isn’t coming in from the ocean, causing extreme fire danger,” said Harry Stockman of the weather service.

“The air is coming downslope from the north. It can create a very intense fire situation.”

Similar weather caused the devastating Oakland Fire in 1991, Stockman said.

The National Weather Service said the conditions are also causing low humidity. That combined with winds drying already parched grass is creating the extreme fire danger, Cartoscelli said.

Winds of 15 to 30 mph with gusts up to 35 are expected today. Those winds are expected to start diminishing Saturday, but low humidity is forecast through the weekend.

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