Heat spurs restrictions
Forest Service officials imposed new fire restrictions in the Sierra and utilities reported record use of electricity as a heat wave kept its grip on California and Nevada Thursday with triple-digit highs, including another 108 degrees in Reno and 91 degrees in South Lake Tahoe.
The Tahoe National Forest, north and west of Lake Tahoe, ordered the new restrictions in place effective today prohibiting campfires except in fire rings in developed campgrounds and other designated sites.
The action follows the lead of the Plumas National Forest to the north and the agency’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit surrounding the lake, both of which cited dry conditions in issuing fire restrictions at the first of this month. Special fire restrictions also went into effect today in the Eldorado National Forest.
Unusually high readings in the upper 80s and 90s also continued at the typically cooler mountain areas around Tahoe, including 97 degrees at Truckee.
Early afternoon thundershowers surprised many South Shore residents. While South Lake Tahoe received a few sprinkles, nearby Sierra-at-Tahoe reported a downpour, with thunder and lightening that lasted for about 10 minutes.
Security at the ski area reported a tree being struck by lightning, causing some fear that it would start a fire.
“There’s not a lot of moisture out there, despite the rain, so we were watching this closely,” said Todd Majoris, director of sales and marketing for Sierra-at-Tahoe.
High temperature readings topped 100 degrees for the third day in a row Thursday across most of northern Nevada.
For the second straight day, Reno reached its all-time record high of 108 degrees. It marked the third day in a row the city has smashed its previous record for the date. The record for July 11 had been 101, set in 1917 and 1964.
Until Wednesday, the hottest it had ever been in Reno was 106 degrees on July 20, 1931, based on record-keeping dating to 1872.
The hottest spot in Nevada Thursday was Lovelock at 110 degrees. Winnemucca and Gerlach checked in at 109 and Fallon at 108. It was 107 degrees at Fernley, Hawthorne and Yerington — all hotter than Las Vegas at 106.
Others above the century mark included Carson City 104, Elko 103, Wendover 102 and Eureka 101.
Sierra Pacific Power Co. said its 315,000 customers in Nevada and the Lake Tahoe area were using an all-time record amount of electricity.
The high demand reached a record 1,585 megawatts at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, eclipsing the old mark of 1,529 megawatts set last Aug. 7, due to increased use of air conditioning, irrigation pumps and continued customer growth, said Bruce Bullock, the Reno-based utility’s executive director of distribution operations.
Tahoe National Forest Supervisor Steve Eubanks pleaded with campers, hikers and other visitors to use extreme caution in the tinder-dry woods of the northern Sierra.
“Forest vegetation is very dry and firefighters and equipment are stretched thin throughout the West,” Eubanks said Thursday.
Abandoned campfires, which sparked a pair of big fires in the region last summer, remain a serious concern, he said.
“I am dismayed at the number of abandoned campfires that are being left by recreationists throughout the forest,” Eubanks said.
The Martis fire near Reno and the Gap fire along U.S. Interstate 80 near Emigrant Gap burned a total of 17,000 acres last year.
“We can’t afford to have these wildfires burn thousands of acres of forest because of carelessness,” Eubanks said.
Under the Forest Service fire restrictions, smoking is allowed only within an enclosed vehicle. Woodcutting is allowed only on roads and trails.
All internal combustion engines including chain saws and off-road vehicles also are required to remain on roads or designated trails.
Portable stoves are permitted in the backcountry with a valid campfire permit.