The mosquito fire became the largest wildfire to burn in California this year, growing more than 63,000 acres on Wednesday night, fueled by dry vegetation in an area that cooled after a record-breaking summer last week.
The fierce fire has been burning for more than a week since it was ignited on September 6. Since Tuesday it has spread over 14,000 acres. As of Wednesday night, the fire is now 63,000. has covered more than According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), acres in El Dorado and Placer counties.
Cal Fire said the fires calmed over the weekend, with strong winds clearing the smoke and creating fresh oxygen for active fire behavior. Containment fell from 25% on Tuesday to 20% on Wednesday.
Fire behavior is expected to increase at the eastern end as winds push the fires into critically dry fuel.
“We’re ready for a full blast here,” Cal Fire fire behavior analyst Jonathan Pangburn said during a U.S. Forest Service briefing on Wednesday. “It doesn’t need a lot of air.”
The Mosquito fire surpassed the McKinney fire as California’s largest wildfire this year. The McKinney fire has burned more than 60,000 acres in Siskiyou County and is currently 99% contained.
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Dangerous conditions in Northern California and Nevada
According to Cal Fire, more than 11,000 residents of surrounding California communities were evacuated because of the mosquito fire. The cities of Foresthill, Michigan Bluff, Georgetown and Volcano were subject to mandatory evacuations early Wednesday.
According to Cal Fire’s most recent damage assessment report, the fire has destroyed 64 structures and damaged 10 in Placer and El Dorado counties. More than 9,000 structures were in danger.
Smoke from mosquito fires hangs over northern California, worsening air quality in the region and Nevada.
Public school officials in Reno and Sparks, Nevada, closed most campuses Wednesday for in-person instruction. Washoe County School District officials cited current hazardous air quality, National Weather Service projections, and potential harm to vulnerable students and pedestrians or school-goers.
The University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College also canceled in-person classes on Wednesday, but said online classes and essential services would continue.
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Historic drought, record heat waves fuel dry conditions for wildfires
A historic drought has hit much of the West and recent heat waves have further dried up vegetation in the region. Extremely dry vegetation is known to be critically dry fuel and fire officials warned that these conditions could easily start a fire.
Pangburn recalls the King fire in 2014, where similar situations occurred, and noted that firefighters were forced to use emergency fire shelters because of the fast-moving flames.
“Not wind-driven incidents, just fuel that was ready and ready, and decided to get up early,” Pangburn said during Wednesday’s briefing.
Contribution: The Associated Press