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Outside events canceled, moved indoors due to Robbers Fire

Officials hope fire is soon contained for sake of community
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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The air conditions associated with the growing Robbers Fire and efforts to contain it impacted multiple outdoor events in the Auburn area on Friday and throughout the weekend.

The weekly Fast Fridays race was canceled as of Friday morning when more fire apparatus and rescue personnel had to be brought in to battle the Robbers Fire. The track used for Fast Fridays at the Gold Country Fairground was too crowded with fire fighting equipment for the race to be held, according to Dave Joiner, owner of Fast Fridays.

Despite the cancellation of this week's 90-rider race, Joiner said he just wants to see the fire contained so that it doesn't threaten any communities.

"I would hate for that to happen. I live in Colfax and several riders live in Foresthill and one rider told me they were preparing to evacuate him from his home," Joiner said. "I just want to see the community survive this."

The missed race precedes the USA Speedway/Budweiser North vs. South event next Friday, which will bring 16 of the best riders from northern and southern California to Auburn.

Joiner hopes the fire will be contained at that point, but not for the sake of holding the race.

"We would move it to the week after, but I hope it doesn't come to that and we'll have the fire crews all cleared out by then," Joiner said. "I certainly hope for the people in the community that the firefighters won't still have to up their numbers by then."

Joiner added that he doubts Fast Fridays will lose much financially when it comes to missing one race. Henry Yates, a volunteer with the Knights of Columbus, said his organization will be impacted somewhat from any cancellation.

The Knights of Columbus collect parking fees at the races every Friday night to raise money for the organization's food closet and other charity work.

"It won't affect us gigantically, but every dollar we lose is another dollar we have to make up somewhere else," Yates said.

Jim Northey, race director of the Tahoe-Sierra 100, said Saturday's mountain bike race will probably have to be modified and shortened to avoid any areas near the Robbers Fire. He was working with the US Forest Service to potentially reroute the race on Friday.

"The winds are a lot higher right now and that could fuel the fire, so if it's a health risk I'll definitely shorten it," Northey said.

Activities at the Auburn Boys and Girls Club were also shepherded inside for the later part of the week at least through Monday.

Though the Placer Hills Pool and public swim at Sierra Pool were both open on Friday after being closed due to poor air quality and smoke on Thursday, the Boys and Girls Club did not make its weekly field trip to cool off.

Eric Ciampa, director of operations with the Auburn Boys and Girls Club, said the 150 kids ages 6 to 18 were kept inside for most of the later part of the week after some complained of being bothered by the air quality outside.

"Some of our kids have been having respiratory problems when they went outside, even later in the day, so we didn't think having them outside for that long made sense," Ciampa said.

Ciampa hopes to have outdoor activities, like hiking and swimming, again in the next week. The Placer County Air Pollution Control District issued a health advisory due to the smoky air conditions Thursday afternoon and told residents to avoid over exertion or exposure to the air, especially if they are sensitive to poor air quality.

"Even when we've thought it was OK to go outside for 10 or 20 minutes we've had kids start to complain, so we didn't bring them out for more than a few minutes after that," Ciampa said.

The Air Quality Index for Placer County was clocked at 122 on Friday, according to sparetheair.com. An Air Quality Index of 122 means the air could be unhealthy for sensitive groups.

The Air Quality forecast for the weekend was slotted for a slightly better 117.

The Auburn Recreational District will decide whether or not to keep swimming areas open based on the changing air quality over the next few days.

The only event that has been canceled this weekend by the recreation district is the junior high volleyball camp because the Regional Park Gymnasium and Lakeside Room have been set aside as back up evacuation centers.

The Colfax Artwalk will still be held tonight from 3 to 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The "Revold of the Toilets" sculpture show will also beheld from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Sierra Vista Community Center.

Contact Amber Marra at amberm@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.