Forecasters say more afternoon thunderstorms could result in more lightning strikes and fire starts in the Mother Lode and higher in the Central Sierra through Tuesday.

Smoke from fires burning in Tuolumne County and in and near Yosemite National Park remained a concern this week through Monday. On Saturday, t he Tuolumne County Air Pollution Control District continued an air quality alert for the county due to wildfire smoke. That alert expired Monday afternoon.

From Wednesday through Friday, a cooling trend is expected to bring daytime highs down to the high 70s in the Sonora area. That’s about 20 degrees cooler than most foothill residents experienced Sunday and Monday.

Showers and thunderstorms could also bring brief spells of rainfall in the Mother Lode foothills, but that remains to be seen at lower elevations. Thunderstorms at higher elevations near Ebbetts Pass brought soaking downpours to parts of the Highway 4 corridor east of Bear Valley over the weekend.

The cooling trend this week is due in part to a weather system off the Southern California coast bringing moist air north.

Lightning strikes and potential fire starts will remain possible as long as chances for thunderstorms linger through Tuesday night, forecasters with the National Weather Service in Sacramento said.

Three more fires

Personnel with Cal Fire’s Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit responded to three local fires Friday through Sunday, said Emily Kilgore with Cal Fire in San Andreas.

One fire was reported at 7:36 p.m. Friday in the 19000 block of Cedar Way near Jesus Maria Road outside Mountain Ranch and near Railroad Flat Road. Two engine crews responded and found a debris pile fire was out when they arrived.

Investigators determined it was an illegal debris burn and a citation was issued for burning during suspension.

The location is near where the 2015 Butte Fire burned more than 110 square miles, destroyed more than 500 homes and killed two residents.

Another fire was reported at 9:18 p.m. Friday at an unspecified location in Tuolumne County. A tree into power lines caused two fires that burned 1.78 acres, Kilgore said. Eight engines, one hand crew, a bulldozer and a water tank truck responded. The fire was declared contained at 9:18 p.m. No injuries were reported.

A third fire was reported at 6:53 p.m. Sunday in the 4000 block of Dunn Road in Calaveras County. Three engine crews and two supervisors responded. The fire was declared contained at 7:15 p.m. and less than .15 of one acre burned. There were no injuries reported and the cause was being investigated.

Mountain fires

Meanwhile at higher elevations in the Stanislaus National Forest, the lightning-strike Summit Complex fires east of Donnells Reservoir had burned more than 4,650 acres as of Monday. They started July 31. The McCormick Fire is the largest at 4,332 acres, north of Fence Creek Road and Clarks Fork Road.

The Douglas Fire has burned 311 acres up on a slope south of Douglas Picnic Area and Eureka Valley Campground on Highway 108. The Willow Fire has burned 10 acres west of Groundhog Meadow.

No structures are threatened or have burned in the Summit Complex fires. About 125 personnel are assigned to the fires and they are estimated to be 20 percent contained.

There have been two injuries reported so far. One of those involved a firefighter who was transported to a hospital for heat-related illness, treated and released.

South of Clarks Fork Road, west of Arnot Creek and Camp Liahona remain under closure order. Fence Creek Road, also known as Forest Road 6N06, Fence Creek Campground, Wheats Meadow and County Line trailheads are also closed.

In the Eagle Meadow Road area, Forest Road 6N40Y south of the Middle Fork Stanislaus River and all areas with a half-mile south and southeast of the road are closed.

The Creek Fire that started due to lightning on Sept. 3 in the Clear Lake Area of the Mi-Wok Ranger District had burned just over 400 acres as of Monday. About 50 personnel are assigned. No injuries have been reported.

Fire crews are dealing with limited access due to washed out roads, steep terrain and tree mortality in the area, according to Stanislaus National Forest staff.

Crews are trying to keep the fire south and east of forest roads 3N29 and 3N29C by starting low intensity backing fires from the 7290’ Ridge, on the west side of the fire.

There are signs in place advising of closures on Trailhead 19E12 and at the intersections of 3N29/3N26, 3N01/3N16 and 3N29/3N21.

Yosemite fires

There are still multiple fires burning in and near Yosemite National Park wilderness this week.

The Railroad Fire that started Aug. 29 along Highway 41 between the Sugar Pine and Fish Camp communities has burned more than 12,400 acres and it was estimated 75 percent contained Monday. Seventeen homes have been destroyed and six injuries have been reported. More than 800 personnel are still assigned to the fire.

Fire managers are urging people to drive with caution on Highway 41 because a lot of firefighters and vehicles remain along the road. All evacuation orders have been lifted. The cause of the Railroad Fire remained under investigation.

The South Fork Fire that was discovered Aug. 13 about three-quarters of a mile east of Wawona had burned more than 6,700 acres as of Monday. It was estimated to be 47 percent contained. The cause was said to be unknown. A total of 17 personnel are assigned to the fire.

The Empire Fire discovered Aug. 1 has burned more than 5,700 acres about a mile east of Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area and three-quarters of a mile south of Glacier Point Road.

The lightning-strike fire was said to be 55 percent contained. A total of 23 personnel were assigned. Closures are in place until further notice for Glacier Point Road, Bridalveil Campground, Ostrander Trail, Bridalveil Trail, Alder Creek Trail, Mono Meadow Trail and Turner Meadow Trail.

The Starr King Fire discovered Aug. 2 has burned about 60 acres near Little Yosemite Valley and the Cascade Cliff area.

The Rattlesnake Fire discovered Sept. 7 that was started by a recreational vehicle has burned about 15 acres in the area of Big Oak Flat Road and Foresta Road. The blaze started when an RV caught fire and spread north into the old Big Meadow burn scar, which helped limit its spread.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.

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