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Forecast brings hope of rain to fire-ravaged North Bay

Firefighters Clyde Rust and John Farrell of Strike Team 4235A from the Tahoe basin extinguish hot spots from the Nuns fire in rugged terrain near homes around Hood Mountain Regional Park in Santa Rosa, California on Monday, October 16, 2017. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

CHRISTI WARREN,

A respite of rain expected to move into the area Thursday night will be a change for firefighters after a week of devastating fires across the North Bay.

The low-pressure system from the Gulf of Alaska is earlier in the year than expected, said forecaster Steve Anderson of the National Weather Service, and it brings a 70 percent chance of up to 0.3 inches of rain in the North Bay’s hills as soon as Thursday night, with between 0.1 and 0.2 inches falling in Santa Rosa.

While that might seem good for firefighting, a Cal Fire official said Monday that’s not necessarily the case.

“That’s not always preferred for us,” said Steve Crawford, who’s heading firefighting operations for the county’s three fires.

The current forecast of just a few tenths of an inch of rain could change repeatedly between now and Thursday afternoon when it’s due. If it remains on the lighter end and is accompanied by wind, it could make the situation worse, Crawford said.

“It’s not necessarily good news,” Crawford said. “We hope we get a half-inch of rain.”

The system will linger through Friday morning, according to the weather service, and shift the winds, clearing the air for smoke-weary North Bay residents who have been dealing with record pollutant levels.

The air, rated “unhealthy” Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Now website, was set to improve Tuesday with a forecast rating of “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

Also with the incoming system, temperatures are expected to dip and humidity rise.

Monday’s high of 88 degrees was predicted to be the hottest of the week, with temperatures falling into the 70s Thursday and Friday. Humidity, in the low teens Monday, will be in the 20 percent to 30 percent range.

Sunday, a high-pressure system is expected to bring temperatures in the 80s, and a chance of increased winds.

“We possibly could have some more wind concerns,” Anderson said. “It is certainly not enough rain to lessen the fire danger, so it’s something we’ll have to keep an eye on.”

Staff Writer Randi Rossmann contributed reporting. You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or christi.warren@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.