Lightning strikes spark Placer County fires

Tahoe National Forest’s American River District near Foresthill bears brunt of bolt barrage
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - A barrage of lightning bolts was hitting Placer County’s high country Tuesday, sparking fires and fears in an area northeast of Foresthill. The American River District, a wilderness area in the Tahoe National Forest near Foresthill, was in the path of a lightning storm of 125 ground strikes Monday afternoon and evening. That storm was expected to continue through Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday, forest officials were forecasting late in the day. U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Ann Westling said Tuesday that the storm – coming from the south and bringing monsoonal moisture as well as thunderstorm activity – was centered in the Foresthill-area ranger district. A total of 105 strikes were recorded elsewhere in the forest as the storm rumbled over the Sierra crest, according to a count that covers the 24-hour period ending at 6 a.m. each morning. Westling said seven fires were reported Tuesday in the American River District – all less than an acre. Small strike teams were fighting the fire from the ground while a Forest Service copter was dropping buckets of water strategically from the air to help keep any blazes from making a run, she said. Four of the seven were considered controlled or contained, including three north of French Meadows Reservoir and another near Robinson Flat. Three fires in the relatively inaccessible areas of the Granite Chief Wilderness were being fought Tuesday by a hand crew and smoke jumpers. Westling said higher-than-normal humidity levels and low wind speeds were aiding firefighting efforts. Of the 14 fires in the Tahoe National Forest, all were less than an acre and eight were being described Tuesday afternoon as either controlled or contained. The rumble of thunder and the flash of lightning were not being heard in Foresthill, which was threatened a month ago by the 2,650-acre Robbers Fire. The Forest Service recorded strikes about 15 miles to the northwest. Mike Roberts, whose rural Foresthill home was close to the fire’s path but undamaged during the July 11-21 blaze, said that he had heard or seen no electrical storm activity. “We’ve been more affected by the smoke from the fires coming from the Clear Lake area,” Roberts said. Continuing thunderstorm activity in the high country is expected throughout the rest of the week in the area, Westling said.