Loyalton Fire burns through 43,000 acres, sends smoke throughout region (VIDEO)

Sierra Sun staff

As wildfires rage through northern California this week after an early Monday storm with dry lightning and strong winds, a blaze sparked one week ago today by a lightning strike in the Sierra Valley — the Loyalton Fire — has consumed over 43,000 acres, burned through homes and helped blanket much of the Tahoe region in smoke.

According to the Tahoe National Forest, the blaze was 35% contained as of Thursday morning, but had burned through five homes and six outbuildings.

“Predicted high winds caused fire activity to pick up after noon today,” the forest service stated in news release. “Containment lines were tested by the wind, and crews worked through the afternoon to ensure that minimal fire spread occurred outside of constructed lines.

As more than 700 firefighting personnel worked to keep the ground they’d gained in containment, the most active area of the fire was between Burma Summit and Balls Canyon Ranch, where some small spots occurred, the forest service reported.

“However, the wind was mostly at firefighter’s backs, and they were able to pick those spots up promptly,” the release stated.

“Multiple new fires (mostly from last week’s lightning) are causing a drastic decrease in air quality throughout the state. Another inversion is expected to set up overnight, and visibility may be impaired due to smoky conditions.”

Hundreds of fires have erupted since the start of the week as a heat wave accompanied by humid air created a dangerous mix of triple-digit temperatures and thunderstorms that flashed lightning, the Associated Press reported. California had recorded nearly 11,000 strikes in 72 hours, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. Fires burned hundreds of thousands of acres through brushland, rural areas, canyon country and dense forest to the north, east and south of San Francisco, through the wine country and the Sierra Nevada.

According to the AP, two fires in Solano County prompted evacuation orders for 8,000 residents near the Russian River Wednesday and residents of Healdsburg, which has a population of about 12,000, were warned late Wednesday night to be ready to flee.

More than 4,000 people were evacuated in western Nevada County due to the Jones Fire, threatening the cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City and burning at 700 acres as of Thursday morning, while another 12,000 were on notice early in the week before some evacuation warnings were lifted.

Ash and smoke filled the air in San Francisco from at least seven fires — known as the LNU Lightning Complex — that had burned more than 100 buildings, including some homes, and threatened 25,000 others in Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Yolo and Solano counties, the AP reported.

As of Thursday morning, all evacuations due to the Loyalton Fire for Vinton and Chilcoot, Cold Springs and Bordertown, as well as in Lassen County, have been lifted, the forest service reported.

Evacuation Advisories have been lifted for the City of Loyalton and homes on the south side of Highway 49 west of Loyalton to Lombardi Point, and in the area of Highway 49 and 70 south to Loyalton, and to the east side of Highway 49.

Mandatory Evacuation Orders remain in effect for Balls Canyon Road, Long Valley Road, and Copperfield. An Evacuation Advisory remains in effect for Sierra Brooks.

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