Mosquito Fire claims 2 dozen homes, 18% contained

Dense smoke expected to return Tuesday afternoon

Staff Report
Mosquito Fire map.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Firefighters took advantage of favorable weather on Monday and have gained containment on the Mosquito Fire that has claimed more than two dozen homes, fire officials announced Tuesday morning.

Air quality is good Tuesday morning at Lake Tahoe but Truckee is suffering some of the worst smoke conditions in the region, weather officials said.

The National Weather Service in Reno in a statement said the fire continues to produce unhealthy to hazardous air quality in many areas with the worst conditions to be concentrated near Truckee and extending into Reno, Sparks, and the North Valleys. Visibility is limited to 2-3 miles in smoky places, mainly along and north of interstate 80. 

“There may be some improvement mid-morning into the early afternoon, however, another wave of smoke is forecast to push into the region this afternoon and evening with the latest smoke modeling concentrating the densest smoke plume for this afternoon across the northern extents of the Tahoe Basin into eastern Sierra County and through Reno/Sparks/North Valleys,” the service said.

Placer County Health and Human Services and the Placer County Air Pollution Control District have extended the air quality advisory through Friday, Sept. 16, for continued poor air quality conditions from smoke from the Mosquito Fire in both Placer and El Dorado counties.

Wildfire smoke may be intermittent and affect different areas of Placer County with elevated levels of particulate matter dependent upon wind direction. Poor air quality can have negative health impacts, particularly for sensitive groups and when exposure is prolonged.

Tuesday’s forecast calls for a 20% chance of showers after 11 a.m. with a high near 73 and 5-10 mph winds that increase to 10-15 in the afternoon.

Air quality in the Truckee-Tahoe area.

Cal Fire is reporting 18% containment on the blaze that has burned 49,761 acres, destroyed 25 homes and 21 “minor” structures and forced thousands from their homes. 

The Monday evening update said firefighters continue to make progress building and strengthening control lines around the Mosquito Fire that started Tuesday, Sept. 6 near Oxbow Reservoir in Placer County. 

Crews took advantage of cooler temperatures, higher humidity and the inversion layer staying in place for a majority of the day by mopping up and securing their lines while fire activity was moderated. 

Along the Foresthill Road corridor from Foresthill to Michigan Bluff and north beyond Chicken Hawk Road, crews worked to strengthen control lines through extensive mopping up of hot spots, fire weakened trees, and smoldering vegetation well into the fire’s perimeter. 

“These actions are crucial to ensuring that the fire will not cross over control lines and will ultimately add containment once firefighters determine there is no threat of escape,” Cal Fire said.

Fire activity remained active along the eastern edge due to extremely low moisture in the vegetation. 

From the incident update: Although the area to the east of the fire includes the American and King Fires’ burn scars, there remains a large area of dense unburned forest in between the two which would be very receptive to fire activity. Crews worked in the area to the east of the fire to build indirect control lines with heavy equipment while also utilizing existing roads when possible. Firefighters continue to look for all possibilities to construct control lines as close to the fire’s edge as terrain and firefighter safety allow.

Containment lines on the southern perimeter of the fire along Volcanoville Road continue to hold and firefighters are strengthening remaining control lines in that area to increase containment. One of today’s top priorities was completing strategic firing operations to assist in locking in the southwest corner of the fire near Buckeye Point. Crews successfully completed their firing operations and have now tied fire into both sides of the Middle Fork of the American River. Firefighters will monitor and strengthen these control lines in order to hold the southwest corner.

The use of aircraft was limited today due to the continued inversion layer over the fire area. Several helicopters were used for water-dropping operations in the late afternoon hours. A Cal Fire Hawk helicopter continues to be available and utilized for nighttime water-dropping missions.

The tropical moisture that has been in the area is forecasted to exit the region in the next day with slightly increased southwest winds. These winds are also forecasted to push the inversion layer out of the fire area earlier in the day tomorrow which will allow for more aircraft use, but could also increase fire activity.

Tuesday’s priorities are to get people back into their homes. As such, the operational priority Tuesday is the uncontained fireline on the southwest side between Volcanoville and Foresthill. The second priority is the fire’s north side where firefighters are getting as close to the fire’s edge as safely as possible to minimize further northward spread. 

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