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Forest fire sunset near Susanville Forest fire sunset near Susanville.
Photo © Stan White
Where's all the smoke coming from? Lightning strikes over the weekend started hundreds of new fires across northern California, an area that had a record dry spell from April through May. Even at this early date, conditions are ripe for wildfires and it's probably going to get worse before it gets better. Just over the state line from us, dozens of fires are burning in Tahoe, Plumas, and Eldorado National Forests. A lightning fire to the east near Fernley was quickly contained and knocked down on Sunday.

I took a trip to Eureka, CA over the weekend and witnessed some of the lightning activity. Friday night, just west of Susanville, I saw lightning flashes over the Cascades north of Mt. Lassen. On Saturday morning, lightning bolts darted from dark clouds west of Redding. I spotted several smoke plumes curling up from the mountains during the drive over U.S. 299 to the coast. On the return trip the next day, the Trinity River canyon was choked with smoke for over 100 miles and flames were occasionally seen on steep slopes above the highway. I drove through heavy smoke till east of Susanville, where it thinned out a bit for the rest of the ride back to Reno. If you have respiratory issues that could make you sensitive to the smoke, look for it to last for the next few days.

There are areas within the Reno city limits that are at risk from wildfire. Some outlying areas are at even greater risk due to surrounding vegetation and distance from help. No one is defenseless, however. Reno / Tahoe Wildfire Safety explains how you can be prepared and live to tell the tale should wildfire come burning in your neighborhood.

July 1, 2008 at 12:48 am
(1) seabird says:

Thanks for the update. We’re from Chgo area. Can’t BEGIN to imagine what it must be like to live with possibility/probability of facing fire. I just posted in TravelAdvisor that we’re planning to visit in mid-Sept and wondering about conditions. We’ll be there either way…but again, all I can say is stay safe!

July 1, 2008 at 2:44 am
(2) renotahoe says:

I’ve lived in the west most of my life and have gotten used to the fires. It happens every year, but has gotten worse over time. Too many years of suppressing what is a natural process that’s going to continue whether people like it or not. One thing I will never understand is why people insist on building and living in places that are guaranteed to burn sooner or later. I know firefighters give it their all, but once a fire reaches inferno intensity, they have to get out like everyone else.

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