American Fire smoke in Auburn, Foresthill to linger longer

8-square-mile burn area northeast of Foresthill
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Thick, acrid smoke from the American Fire northeast of Foresthill could linger in the area for the next two weeks, a Cal Fire official said Thursday.

Smoke has been sending pollution levels soaring in Auburn and other Placer County communities in recent days as the American Fire burns about 30 miles northeast of Auburn and heavy smoke moves downslope at night, usually wafting into the city around 4 a.m.

The smoke has lingered into the afternoon Monday through Wednesday, but a light wind Thursday was able to push away the haze in Auburn by late morning.

Cal Fire Division Chief Scott Lindgren briefed the Placer County Board of Supervisors on Thursday about the extent of the fire, which is located in the Tahoe National Forest about 17 miles northeast of Foresthill. He noted that private timber stands owned by Sierra Pacific and Lone Star Timber are in the fire area.

“We anticipate smoke out there for the next couple of weeks,” Lindgren said.

At 4,958 acres, the American Fire’s burn footprint had grown to more than 8 square miles. In comparison, the city of Auburn is 7.2 square miles.

Forest Service spokeswoman Gwen Ernst-Ulrich said Thursday that the fire was continuing to burn in the Deadwood Ridge and Last Chance areas in the North Fork of the Middle Fork American River drainage. The fire is projected to be active on both the north and south ends, burning north up the river drainage and south to the Grouse Creek Trail, she said.

“The fire is burning in steep terrain in dense timber in an area that has not burned in several decades, which is contributing to the heavy smoke,” Ernst-Ulrich said 

Foresthill resident Darin Pointer said that the American Fire smoke covers the community, 17 miles east of Auburn, late at night.

“It has been like clockwork and clears up around 11 a.m.,” Pointer said. “At night, it’s so bad, you can hardly go outside without your chest burning and eyes watering.”

The Placer County Department of Public Advisory has issued an advisory on poor air quality due to the American Fire. Smoke has spread from the valley floor to the Lake Tahoe area.

Recommended ways to reduce smoke exposure include:

-- Staying indoors with the windows and doors closed, while running the air conditioner on the recirculation setting.

-- Limiting outdoor exertion and physical activity.

-- Leaving smoky areas until conditions improve, if possible.

-- Reducing unnecessary driving and putting the ventilation system on recirculate when traveling through smoky areas.

-- Avoiding the use of non-HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) paper face-mask filters, which are not capable of filtering out extra-fine particulates.

The American Fire was 35 percent contained on Thursday, the Forest Service reported. About 875 people were working to fight the fire, which was first reported Saturday afternoon.


More information on the American Fire:

-- Go to

-- Phone the Tahoe National Forest Information Center (530) 367-6223