Weather service forecasts haze, smoke Thursday; High elevation snow possible on weekend

Staff Report
A view Thursday morning from the Tahoe Donner webcam.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — For the third consecutive morning Lake Tahoe has been spared from poor air quality, but the Mosquito Fire west of the basin continues to chew up acreage, destroy structures and pump out smoke.

Truckee is having some smoke issues with sensors showing air quality in the moderate to unhealthy range.

The National Weather Service in Reno is forecasting widespread haze and areas of smoke on Thursday and Friday in the Truckee-Tahoe region with 5-10 mph winds and highs in the low 70s.

“The latest air quality observations indicate the worst conditions to be concentrated near Truckee and extending into Reno, Sparks, and the North Valleys,” the service said in a statement. “The next wave of smoke is projected to push into the region this afternoon and evening with the latest smoke simulations spreading smoke across much of western Nevada, the Tahoe Basin, and portions of the eastern Sierra by late tonight into early Friday. Expect additional reductions to air quality and visibility.”

The fire, burning near Oxbow Reservoir, east of Foresthill in Placer and El Dorado counties, as of Thursday morning has burned 64,159 acres and is 20% contained. Seventy structures have been destroyed, another 10 have been damaged and another 9,236 remain threatened. More than 11,000 have been evacuated. Total personnel battling the blaze is 3,655.

The Placer County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ratified the county’s proclamation of a local emergency for the Mosquito Fire.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also proclaimed a state of emergency for Placer and El Dorado counties due to the Mosquito Fire, and California secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the blaze.

“I know this fire has been very tough for our residents in Foresthill, Todd Valley and Michigan Bluff, and the smoke has affected all of us,” said Board Chair and District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. “We all know how critical this is and I’m so grateful for the tremendous efforts of our first responders and county staff working around the clock to stop this fire and support all who’ve been affected.” 

From the incident report Thursday morning:

“Overnight, smoke settled back into drainages due to easing winds, with a majority of the fire area seeing good humidity recovery. Firefighters continued working throughout the night, patrolling, mopping up, and securing control lines around the south and east sides of the fire. Crews and heavy equipment, including a large number of dozers, continued constructing indirect lines adjacent to steep and rugged terrain to the east of the main firefront. Firefighters remain engaged on the north side of the fire near Deadwood Road. Crews continued bringing strategic firing operations down the Deadwood Road from the Foresthill Divide Road with the intention of stopping the fire’s northern spread. Firefighters were conducting similar operations on the southeast corner of the fire near Stumpy Meadows by constructing control lines and utilizing firing operations to secure them.

“Thursday’s priorities remain securing each of the three corners of the fire,” the report continued. “Firefighters have been very successful in holding the control lines along the communities of Todd Valley and Foresthill despite challenging fire conditions on Tuesday. Crews will continue extensive mop-up operations in those areas, the Foresthill Road corridor, and on the portions of line to the north of Volcanoville. Southwest winds have been favorable for the communities along Volcanoville Road, but firefighters remain in the areas to ensure the fire does not spot across containment lines.”

The weather service is calling for favorable weather Thursday with lighter southwest winds that will continue to push out the smoke inversion and provide clear air over the fire area, officials said. 

An approaching cold front is expected to enter the region Saturday night into Sunday with high elevation snow in the forecast along with 30 mph winds. There is a 50% chance of showers on Sunday and highs will be in the mid 60s. 

A chance of showers stay in the forecast through Wednesday with the snow level anywhere from 8,000-9,000 feet.

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