TRUCKEE, Calif. — More smoke from the King Fire burning west of Lake Tahoe is expected in the region this week, although crews appear to be getting a handle on managing the blaze.
The fire us up to 87,592 acres as of 8 a.m. Monday, and it’s at 18 percent containment. Roughly 12,000 single residences and 9,000 other minor structures continued to be threatened. Evacuations were ordered for more than 2,800 people.
The blaze started near the south fork of the American River, just northeast of Pollock Pines, Calif., roughly an hour or so west of South Lake Tahoe, at about 4:30 p.m. Sept. 13.
READ MORE: A man has been arrested on suspicion of setting the fire. His bail was set at $10 million.
Despite the fire’s reach inching toward Lake Tahoe, no evacuations or emergency orders are in effect for Truckee-Tahoe.
“The King Fire poses no immediate threat to the Tahoe Truckee area at this time,” the Truckee Fire Protection District said in a statement Sunday evening. “Caution — a considerable amount of inaccurate information is flowing though social media from unreliable sources.”
While the Tahoe region appears safe from the fire, residents haven’t been as fortunate to escape heavy smoke coming from it.
Thick smoke forced officials with Ironman to cancel its second annual Lake Tahoe triathlon and sister events Sunday; the decision was made minutes before the start of the main race’s 2.4-mile swim.
In all, more than 2,500 athletes were ready to attempt the race, which also featured a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon throughout the North Shore/Truckee region.
“Due to high early morning unhealthy concentrations of particulate matter in and around various areas of the Tahoe Basin ... we feel that the event management made the right decision today in the interest of the athletes, event volunteers, and spectators,” said Tom Christofk, Air Pollution Control Officer for Placer County, in a Sunday statement. “We have been monitoring the air quality impacts from the King Fire on the event for several days, and have been reviewing near real time data from sensors located in Squaw Valley, Tahoe City, Kings Beach, and Truckee. The data from this morning indicates unsafe levels of air quality to commence the event.”
While smoke has been heavy at times on and off since Sept. 14 at Truckee-Tahoe, levels Saturday evening and Sunday in Olympic Valley and Truckee were “very unhealthy,” according to the Placer County Air District.
READ MORE: Prior to Sunday’s Ironman Lake Tahoe triathlon, officials had been monitoring smoke levels for days.
At 7 a.m. Sunday, levels in Truckee were at 499 μg/m³ — which means micrograms of air pollutant (one-millionth of a gram) per cubic meter of air. In Tahoe City, they were recorded at about 120.
“As much as we were all looking forward to this event, I am confident that the cancellation was the right decision to protect the health of the athletes and the public,” said Robert Oldham, Placer County Public Health Officer, in a statement.
As of Monday morning, smoke levels were at 69 μg/m³ in Truckee and Tahoe City, still considered “unhealthy.”
Levels were safe enough for classes to take place with the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Monday, although outdoor activities have been canceled.
“We continue to monitor the air quality situation, and district staff did (walkthroughs) at all campuses early this morning,” said TTUSD Coordinator of Parent & Community Relations Kelli Twomey. “We have received recommendations from County health officials and are acting accordingly.”
The Truckee-Tahoe region is under a dense smoke advisory from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service in Reno.
Visibility will drop to less than 1 mile at times, according to NWS, especially in the afternoon and evening when smoke from the King Fire is expected to spread east of the Sierra crest.
“The smoke will continue to be a problem until the fire becomes less active,” according to a special weather statement.
“We were monitoring air quality with the Placer County Air Pollution Control District and the schools all weekend,” Oldham said Monday. “Early this morning, we recommended closure of schools in the Colfax and Foresthill areas based up hazardous levels of fine particulate matter in the air over the last 24 hours. We are also recommending cancellation of all outdoor activities today in the Squaw Valley, Truckee, Auburn, Colfax, and Foresthill areas.”
As for the King Fire, four people have been injured. In all, more than 5,550 people were battling the blaze as of Monday morning.
The number 530-647-5218 has been set up as a King Fire information line; further, you can follow latest evacuation and other updates at the following Facebook page: facebook.com/KINGFIREPIO.