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Feeling the burn
by Andrea Tyrell
Sep 04, 2013 | 1376 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Smoke lingering in the air due to the Rim Fire left the Nugget towers largely covered in a hazy cloud Wednesday afternoon.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Smoke lingering in the air due to the Rim Fire left the Nugget towers largely covered in a hazy cloud Wednesday afternoon.
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The U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday morning that the Yosemite National Park Rim fire is 80 percent contained. That's good news for Sparks businesses that waited weeks for the smoke to clear up. Outdoors businesses, from golf courses to landscape design companies, have felt the negative effects the smoky air hit their businesses with, resulting in declining profit and exposure.

"We definitely have been affected by the smoke," said Anton Belacampa, bartender and clubhouse attendant at the Links at Kiley Ranch. "People now usually come in only in the mornings. The smoke seems worse in the afternoon and no one wants to play in those conditions."

Officials at The Links at Kiley Ranch recently revamped their clubhouse and are hoping to attract more guests to their new bar area. However, the smoke forces members and future guests inside their own homes, keeping them away from the golf course.

"We're hoping that things clear up soon," said Belacampa. "We have a great bar that we want people to frequent. But when no one comes in to play, no one notices of the bar. It hurts business all around."

Other Sparks businesses are losing out on making money and keeping their businesses profitable.

"No one is going outside to dream about their yards with all this smoke," said Mike Schuhmaer, owner of Legends Landscaping. "When people stay inside, they aren't thinking about their yards."

Schuhmaer said the smoke will affect his future business in October and November, as his clients usually plan lawn maintenance in advance. Because of the smoke, some clients are deciding to avoid lawn maintenance all together this autumn.

"Business went down for me, about 15 percent over the last three weeks," said Schuhmaer. "The production level also went down. I don't want my guys working outside, straining themselves."

"We're in a bad spot geographically. The primary location of the fire is directly below us, causing the smoke to billow up into the Truckee Meadows," said Scott McGuire, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "Also, because we're in a valley, the air sinks to the valley floor, trapping it. In the late afternoon, when the zephyr winds kick in, they help clear the smoke for a bit but it ends up settle back on the floor at nighttime."

"The good news is that we're expecting a shift in the wind direction, from southwest to northeast sometime, this weekend," said McGuire. "That will help clear up the air, fingers crossed."

The now contained American fire burned 27,440 acres in the Tahoe National Forest, 40 miles west of Lake Tahoe over the course of 20 days. The Yosemite Rim fire began Aug.17 and has since burned 235,840 acres. The U.S. Forest Service projected that the Rim fire will be completely contained by late next week.

Scotts Stephens, professor of Fire Science at the University Of California, Berkeley said that fires of this length of time are unfortunate but not a rarity and could happen again next fire season.

"I believe that climate change is drying out forests earlier and temperatures are up and rising," said Stephens. "However, if fuel treatments had been used in this area, we would not have had the tree mortality that has probably occurred. Unless we get ahead of the fuel problem in forests that once experienced frequent fire, wildfires influenced by climate change will burn them as severe as the current Rim Fire."
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