PLACER COUNTY — High humidity and weak winds in the El Dorado National Forest over the weekend are helping firefighters battling the Mosquito Fire make the first steps in containing a blaze that has now been raging for close to a week.
But officials said that crews are not out of the woods just yet — and fresh fuel to the northeast in the direction of Lake Tahoe could ignite “a big fire” if the favorable weather conditions disappear. Evacuation orders are also still active.
As of Sunday morning, the Mosquito Fire has burned 41,443 acres east of the Foresthill area in Placer County and is 10% contained. Though the fire grew by roughly 25% over the night, it was mostly from fire crews conducting prescribed burns to further contain the blaze, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Stan Bercovitz. No buildings have been destroyed so far; however, about 5,848 structures in the Foresthill area are under threat.
“Fortunately for this fire, we haven’t had big winds,” he said. “But the fuels do exist. And the terrain exists (for it to grow further).”
While the ignition sources to the northeast include burn scars from two previous fires, Bercovitz said that their terrain is made up of bushes that would create “flashy fuels.” Beyond the two burn scars is land that hasn’t been touched by fires in decades, according to a fire briefing on Sunday morning. There are currently 1,808 crew members dispatched to the incident.
Bercovitz said containment has been difficult for crews because the terrain where the Mosquito Fire is burning is somewhat inaccessible — and aircraft have had a hard time in the air because of smoky conditions.
On Sunday, evacuation orders were active in the Volcanoville, Quitette, Bald Mountain, Grey Eagle, Canyon Creek and Georgetown areas. Warnings were active in the Cool, Garden Valley, Swansboro, Slate Mountain and East Stumpy Meadows areas. More than 11,000 people have been evacuated, according to officials. In Placer County, an evacuation center has been set up at Sierra College. In El Dorado County, there are evacuations centers at Cameron Park Services District and Green Valley Community Church.
An air quality advisory was announced for Sunday because of smoke from the Mosquito Fire, as well as blazes in Washington State and Idaho.