Crews battling a huge Northern California wildfire threatening thousands of homes braced Monday for the possibility of strong, erratic winds similar to when the blaze doubled in size a week ago.
On Monday, the fire’s smoke caused the National Weather Service on Monday to issue a “dense smoke advisory” covering an area from north of Reno to south of Gardnerville and throughout Lake Tahoe.
The advisory stretched as far east as Lovelock, about 90 miles east of Reno, and included the cities of Fernley and Fallon. The smoke is expected to stay in the area until Wednesday, forecasters said.
“A dense smoke advisory is issued when smoke from wildfires significantly reduces visibilities making it difficult to see and breathe,” the service said in a statement Monday morning that predicted visibility would be reduced to less than 1 mile at times.
“The smoke will continue to be a problem until the fires are extinguished or there is a more favorable weather pattern to disperse the smoke,” the service said. “Persons in the advisory area should avoid prolonged exposure to the smoke and stay indoors.”
Carson Tahoe Health said Monday night it is taking proactive steps to prepare and protect patients in response to the heavy smoke conditions in our area from the King Fire.
Precautions being taken include consolidating entrances at the Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center and Carson Tahoe Specialty Medical Center. These inpatient care areas have been equipped with air scrubbers and fans which have effectively maintained good air quality within the facilities.
Carson Tahoe Health recommends that community members stay inside, refrain from exercising outdoors, don’t use vacuums or gas stoves and keep windows and doors closed
Crews scrambled Monday to extend control lines around the massive King Fire threatening thousands of homes as they braced for strong, erratic winds similar to when the blaze doubled in size a week ago.
The fire east of Sacramento had burned through 137 square miles, an increase of about 9 square miles overnight despite crews making some progress Sunday in cooler and slightly wet conditions.
But expected warmer temperatures, low humidity and winds of up to 30 mph could increase fire activity, state fire spokesman Capt. Tom Piranio said.
“This could set up some potential fire growth similar to what we experienced when it grew exponentially last week,” Piranio said. “We are working very aggressively to maintain the contingency lines.”
Last week, the blaze grew to 111 square miles overnight when winds surged to more than 25 mph, the state forestry and fire protection department reported. More than 5,000 firefighters — from as far as Florida and Alaska — have worked around the clock to increase the fire containment from 10 to 18 percent by Monday.
However, a red flag warning has been issued for Tuesday as gusty winds could reach up to 35 mph by Wednesday, said Holly Osbourne, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sacramento.
“It’s definitely going to pose a challenge to the control lines the firefighters have created,” said Osbourne, adding that there’s also a slight chance for rain Thursday.
The wildfire which started on Sept. 13 continues to threaten about 21,000 structures, more than half of them homes.
It has destroyed 10 homes and 22 outbuildings in the White Meadows area of Pollock Pines, according to preliminary figures released Sunday.
About 100 evacuees were allowed to return home, but some 2,700 remain under evacuation orders, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. The fire also continued to threaten a key University of California, Berkeley research station that is home to scores of experiments on trees, plants and other wildlife.
A man charged with starting the fire, Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, pleaded not guilty to arson Friday. He remains in the El Dorado County jail on $10 million bail.