Record-level heat wave expected in Nevada County at week’s end |

Record-level heat wave expected in Nevada County at week’s end

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

With triple-digit temperatures expected by the weekend, fire officials and forecasters say the heat wave will exacerbate an already hazardous fire potential in Nevada County.

Forecasters with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration are predicting that after an initial Wednesday cool down, temperatures in Nevada County will jump from the high 90s Friday to more than 100 degrees by Saturday, which could break record temperatures, the agency noted.

“There is a potential with some fire problems with this heat wave if winds pick up the way we think they will Friday into Saturday,” said Jim Mathews, a National Weather Service forecaster.

Nevada County has only gotten a couple of inches of precipitation since the beginning of April, according to Department of Water Resources — and that is on top of a snowpack that was only 17 percent of the normal average, according to the state’s final snow survey May 2.

Statewide, the number of fire incidents is nearly double what it was last year, which itself was a dry year. Compared to early June 2012, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported its firefighters had responded to 90 percent more incidents so far in 2013.

“We’re several months ahead of our typical trend,” said Mark Buttron, a battalion chief with Grass Valley Fire Department, on behalf of Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, talking about the dry conditions.

“That is a cause for concern, especially in the high country,” Buttron said. “Anytime the heat is up, that tends to make the fire danger more significant. As the temperatures climb and the relative humidity drops, that can certainly present issues for us, especially if wind comes along.”

In addition, enough moisture and instability is present over northern California for a chance of afternoon and early evening thunderstorms over the mountains, mainly the northern Sierra Nevada, through Thursday, which Mathews said will most like affect altitudes above 2,500 feet and isn’t expected to drop much moisture.

“The summer burn ban is now in effect,” states a recording at the Norther Sierra Air Quality Management District’s burn ban hotline. “Every day is a not-burn day until further notice.”

Cal Fire officials caution that residents avoid operating heavy machinery, such as lawn mowers, weed whackers and even avoid rock landscaping, during the midday high heat conditions for fear of sparking a fire, said spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff.

“Get it done early in the morning and relax the rest of the day,” she said.

Beyond the flammable conditions, Tolmachoff and Buttron both cautioned against strenuous activity during high heat. Tolmachoff advised against exercising at any other part of the day except early morning or toward sunset, when temperatures are lower. She also stressed the need to stay hydrated.

Extreme heat is dangerous for all persons but especially the very young, senior citizens, and those with chronic medical conditions, warned the Nevada County Health and Human Services Agency’s public health department in a Monday public service announcement.

“These groups of vulnerable people have a harder time regulating their body temperature,” the announcement read.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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