Monday, 22 July 2024

Regional lightning fires continue to burn; smoke degrades air quality

NORTH COAST – Thousands of acres around the state continued to burn Sunday in hundreds of lightning-caused fires, with state and federal officials doing their best to contain them.

Heavy smoke continued to clog Lake County's skies, with the smoke coming from fires in Mendocino County's Covelo and Anderson Valley regions, according to Cal Fire spokesperson Tracy Boudreaux.

Cal Fire reported that nearly 400 fires were burning in its units around the state, from Northern California south to Fresno and Monterey counties.

In Mendocino County, Cal Fire reported 90 fires had been reported and have burned more than 5,000 acres. The Orr Fire is 200 acres and has evacuations of the Orr Springs Resort and 20 homes in the area; the Navarro Fire is 1,400 acres and 5-percent contained; the Foster Fire is 60 acres with 0-percent containment; the Table Mountain Fire is 1,000 acres and 5-percent contained; the Mallo Pass Fire is 600 acres; and the two Juan Creek fires are at 100 acres each. Cal Fire said there are eight additional fires at 30 acres each.

In the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Cal Fire Unit, five fires had been reported burning near Napa, west of Fairfield. All but one of the fires was contained. The fire had burned 3,500 acres Sunday, and was 35-percent contained.

In the Mendocino National Forest, lightning over the weekend caused at estimated 50 fires across the forest's three ranger districts, according to Forest Service spokesperson Phebe Brown.

The largest of the fires is a 50-acre blaze on the Upper Lake Ranger District, said Brown.

Some structures in the area are threatened, she said, although there are no evacuations ordered yet. Fire equipment is on the roads and people are advised to be careful if traveling in the forest.

Most of the fires are small, and some already have been contained, Brown said.

Smoke jumpers are working on some of the larger fires, said Brown.

Containment across all of the fires is estimated at 10 percent, she said.

“We have requested more equipment and crews,” said Brown.

Although the forest has been getting much of what it's requested, Brown added, “The crews are pretty scarce.”

The push around the state was for more personnel, with officials reporting a shortage of available firefighters. Over the weekend, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger deployed the California National Guard to assist with firefighting, according to the Associated Press.

Lake County Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds reported Sunday that the fires were resulting in smoke, haze and degraded air quality for the area.

Reynolds explained that smoke is trapped in the cooler marine air layer and transported inland, causing the present smoke impacts. At times smoke can be transported to sea within a circulation cell, and then return back over Northern California in a wide band of smoke filled air.

He said the smoke and sunlight cause chemical reactions in the air that further reduces visibility by forming secondary particles aside from the smoke. These particles draw the moisture out of the air, growing in number and size, making the haze even worse.

Many areas, he said, are being affected more severely than Lake County.

He said that, although health standards have not been exceeded, levels are abnormally high, and it is suggested that persons sensitive to respiratory irritants or who have a respiratory illness stay indoors and avoid unnecessary exercise. Place air conditions on “recirculation” mode and consult your physician if you suffer from asthma or pulmonary disease, or have other health problems, and are experiencing difficulties.

Reynolds said the residual haze and particulate from the fires can be expected to continue throughout the northern part of the state until the fires are out.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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