Mosquito Fire more than doubles in size; Air quality ‘moderate-to-unhealthy’ in Truckee-Tahoe

The Mosquito Fire at night.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — A record-breaking heat wave and dry, drought-parched conditions have helped the Mosquito Fire double in size over the last 24 hours and smoke from the uncontained blaze is blanketing the Lake Tahoe Basin, severely degrading air quality.

Tahoe on Friday morning has unhealthy to hazardous air quality all around the lake, according to

The Mosquito Fire has burned 23,000 acres as of Friday morning, exploding in size from Thursday morning where the fire had blackened 6,870 acres. Officials added that due to smoke conditions they cannot get a fully accurate total.

The air quality in the Truckee-Tahoe region on Friday morning per Yellow is moderate air quality, orange is unhealthy for sensitive groups, red is unhealthy, purple is very unhealthy and maroon is hazardous.

The fire was first reported on Tuesday in Placer County, located between the Rubicon River and Middle Fork of the American River about 26 miles east of the community of Foresthill, in the Tahoe National Forest, near Oxbow Reservoir. 

Embers from the fire crossed the reservoir into El Dorado County and sparked a 5,000-acre run to Volcanoville, reported Cal Fire Amador-El Dorado Unit Chief Mike Blankenheim who added during a community briefing Thursday night that structures have been lost.

“I don’t have a good handle on it yet but it’s definitely not the whole community by any stretch,” he said.

The Mosquito Fire is burning west of the Tahoe Basin.

Blankenheim noted the blaze crossed Oxbow right under Volcanoville and “got up into the wind and started moving east again.”

Blankenheim predicted the fire will “probably” end up at Stumpy Meadows Reservoir inside the 2014 King Fire burn scar.

“The fire is pushing pretty hard right now east up the Rubicon Drainage and up the American River Drainage,” he said.

Current mandatory evacuation orders stretch from Greenwood to Stumpy Meadows. A map of evacuated areas can be viewed at

The fire is threatening approximately 3,600 homes in and around Foresthill, including a high school, middle school, elementary school, Placer County Community Center, a Placer County Sheriff substation, Cal Fire Station 11, two hydro power plants, Foresthill Water Treatment Plant, Foresthill Fire Protection District, Sugar Pine Dam and Reservoir, and two public radio towers for fire and law enforcement communications.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s regional administrator authorized the use of federal funds to assist the state of California in combating the Mosquito Fire burning in Placer and El Dorado counties, said a Friday morning press release.

On Sept. 9, the state of California submitted a request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant. FMAGs provide federal funding for up to 75% of eligible firefighting costs. The Disaster Relief Fund provides allowances for FMAGs through FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to become a greater incident.

Eligible costs covered by FMAGs can include expenses for field camps, equipment use, materials, supplies and mobilization, and demobilization activities attributed to fighting the fire.

The National Weather Service in Reno says the ongoing fires, including two south of the basin near Yosemite National Park, will continue to impact the region with degraded air quality. 

“Areas across the Tahoe Basin and into the Carson Valley could see another wave of mid-afternoon smoke from the Mosquito wildfire which will continue unhealthy air quality in the region,” the service said on Friday.

The heat wave, which has set records everyday in Tahoe City for the past week, is on its way out.

The weather service is expecting a high of 88 on Friday and 83 on Saturday before dropping into the mid 70s on Sunday.

Thunderstorm chances (20%) also enter the forecast on Saturday night and the chances rise (30%) for Sunday into Monday.

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