NorCal crews working at Mosquito Fire brace for windy, rainy weekend

Containment of the state's biggest fire has remained at 20% since Tuesday as firefighters have built new containment lines


Michael McGough
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With a storm headed for Northern California this weekend, crews battling the Mosquito Fire anticipate rain but also gusty winds that could induce more dangerous fire behavior.

CAL FIRE and U.S. Forest Service officials in a Friday morning update reported the Mosquito Fire at 69,908 acres (109 square miles) with 20% containment. Reported containment has remained at 20% since Tuesday evening; crews have built new containment lines, but the fire’s perimeter also has grown.

Travis Thane, U.S. Department of Agriculture division chief, takes video of a tanker after it drops fire retardant on the Mosquito Fire near Foresthill on Tuesday.
Travis Thane, U.S. Department of Agriculture division chief, takes video of a tanker after it drops fire retardant on the Mosquito Fire near Foresthill on Tuesday. (Photo/Hector Amezcua/Tribune News Service)

National Weather Service forecasts call for rain in interior Northern California starting around Saturday evening and continuing through Tuesday. Parts of the Sierra Nevada foothills could see up to an inch of rain.

But forecasters expect the wind, coming in from the southwest, to arrive a bit earlier: gusts around 30 mph could develop near the Mosquito Fire on Saturday afternoon.

“Firefighters will welcome precipitation, but the stronger winds have the potential to cast embers farther out in front of the fire,” fire officials wrote in Friday morning’s incident report.

The Mosquito Fire, which ignited Sept. 6 near the Oxbow Reservoir and is now California’s largest of 2022, continues to burn in the foothills east of Sacramento, where more than 11,000 residents remain displaced. It is burning in steep terrain that includes numerous river drainages.

The Placer County towns of Foresthill and Todd Valley, as well as the El Dorado County towns of Georgetown, Volcanoville and Quintette, have all now been under mandatory evacuation orders for more than a week.

The wildfire flared up substantially Tuesday afternoon, driven by winds that cleared out a smoke inversion layer and stoked fire behavior, including a 1,100-acre spot fire that jumped the Middle Fork of the American River from El Dorado County into Placer County.

Tuesday’s flare-up raced toward the Foresthill and Todd Valley area. Fire personnel have mounted a successful defense, holding the blaze south of Foresthill Road and protecting structures in the town of about 1,500 people.

Fire officials in Friday morning’s update called fire behavior “moderate” overnight and said crews had a “very productive night” Thursday conducting a firing operation south of Foresthill to secure that area.

Meanwhile, the eastern portions of the fire have also grown steadily this week, in a less populated part of Placer County.

This week’s flare-up prompted new evacuation orders beginning Tuesday: one north of Yankee Jims Road in Placer County, and the other in the Stumpy Meadows campground area in El Dorado County. No new orders were issued Wednesday or Thursday.

The Mosquito Fire has destroyed at least 73 structures, including homes in the Volcanoville and Michigan Bluff areas, and damaged at least 13 others, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said in an update Friday morning.

More than 9,200 structures are still considered at risk, fire officials said Friday.

Evacuation centers have been established at Sierra College, 6100 Sierra College Blvd. in Rocklin; Cameron Park Services District, 2502 Country Club Drive in Cameron Park; and Green Valley Community Church, 3500 Missouri Flat Road in Placerville. The Cameron Park site is an overnight shelter.

Nearly 3,900 fire personnel were assigned to the Mosquito Fire as of Thursday evening, authorities said.

Large portions of Tahoe National Forest will be closed for the rest of 2022 due to the fire.

Air quality still poor in parts of California, Nevada

Smoke from the Mosquito Fire has plagued air quality east of the fire most days since the fire began, with the worst pollution recently concentrated in western Nevada including the Reno area.

The Washoe County School District and Lake Tahoe Unified School District each had to cancel one day of classes at all of their campuses earlier this week due to hazardous air quality.

federal air monitor map as of Friday morning showed large swaths of “very unhealthy” air quality covering Colfax, Truckee, most of the Lake Tahoe area, Reno and Carson City.

Wind and rain from the upcoming storm could help clear out some of the smoke.

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©2022 The Sacramento Bee

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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