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NorCal wildfire destroys 10 homes

A DC-10 Air Tanker makes a drop on the Sand Fire at the middle fork of the Cosumnes River in Northern California as firefighters standby to protect a home on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Hundreds of firefighters are working in rugged terrain and triple-digit temperatures. (AP Photo/The Sacramento Bee, Hector Amezcua) MAGS OUT; LOCAL TV OUT (KCRA3, KXTV10, KOVR13, KUVS19, KMAZ31, KTXL40); MANDATORY CREDIT: THE SACRAMENTO BEE, HECTOR AMEZCUA
AP | The Sacramento Bee

How weather affects wildfire smoke

In a multi-day wildfire event, smoke plumes start to rise in the afternoon as temperatures increase. As a result, you can see them start to grow taller each afternoon around 3 or 4 p.m.

“It’s at that point that you start to get the trailing smoke plume that descends downwind of the actual fire,” said Drew Peterson, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Sacramento.

“That occurs between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. or so,” he said. “You get all those fine particulates in the atmosphere, and it’s the upper level winds that steer where things go. As the night continues, those particulates come back toward the surface, and that’s what you’re experiencing today.”

“That’s the general cycle that happens with all wildfires,” Peterson added.

PLYMOUTH — Firefighters in Northern California on Sunday battled a wildfire that has destroyed 10 homes and forced hundreds of evacuations in the Sierra Nevada foothills, while a fire near Yosemite National Park destroyed one home and grew significantly overnight.

East of Sacramento, the Sand Fire has burned about 3,800 acres, roughly 6 square miles, of steep, rugged terrain near wine-growing regions in Amador and El Dorado counties since Friday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire, which has also destroyed seven outbuildings, was 35 percent contained Sunday morning, but threatens hundreds of homes, Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said. It could grow again Sunday as firefighters brace for high wind and triple-digit heat in the drought-stricken region.



“All of the vegetation in the area is struggling. It’s burning very easily,” Tolmachoff said. “It causes the fire to be a lot hotter and to spread more easily.”

West of Yosemite National Park, a wildfire that began Saturday afternoon quadrupled in size overnight to 2,100 acres, or more than 3 square miles, and was burning out of control Sunday. It destroyed one home in the small community of Foresta, adjacent to the park, Ranger Scott Gediman said. The park itself remained open.




The Sand Fire in the Sierra foothills has prompted authorities to evacuate about 500 homes and close several roads near the town of Plymouth. Nearly 1,500 firefighters, aided by aircraft including a DC-10 air tanker, are working to control the blaze.

Cal Fire officials say a vehicle that drove over dry vegetation started the fire, which has sent up huge plumes of smoke and worsened air quality in the Sacramento area.

Meanwhile, about 400 firefighters aided by fixed-wing helicopters were battling the flames Yosemite, Gediman said. The cause wasn’t immediately known.

About 100 homes in Foresta and the small community of Old El Portal were evacuated.

The park itself, home to such sites as Half Dome mountain, Yosemite Meadows, a grove of Giant Sequoia trees and other wonders, remained open Sunday. None of its treasures were threatened, Gediman said, although some areas were smoky.

The Crane Flat campground and Highway 120, a major highway leading to the park from the San Francisco Bay Area, were closed.


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