Mosquito fire continues to rage west of Lake Tahoe with no containment

Sacramento and surrounding communities woke to a red sun and smoky skies Friday as the Mosquito fire in the foothills east of the city continued to rage out of control, sending clouds of smoke that were visible from space billowing over the landscape.

Fire officials said the blaze, which began Tuesday evening near the community of Foresthill in Placer County. As of 1:33 p.m. Friday, it had consumed 29,585 acres with no containment, according to Cal Fire.

No injuries to firefighters or residents have been reported, officials said, but more than 2,500 people in small Sierra communities were under a mandatory evacuation order and air quality in much of the area was hazardous.

Chris Vestal, the public information officer on the fire, said it could be mid-October before the blaze is fully contained.

“One of the challenges is the terrain,” he said. Because of the steep and rugged area where the fire is burning, firefighters can’t use bulldozers for containment lines, and so may have to build them by hand with shovels.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but on Thursday, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. filed a report with the state disclosing “electrical activity” on one of its transmission lines near where the fire ignited.

By Thursday afternoon, the fire had generated a giant pyrocumulus cloud over the Sierra, jumped the middle fork of the American River and was burning its way toward Volcanoville in El Dorado County.

Vestal said officials had reports of homes burned in Volcanoville, an old mining town that now has about 250 residents, but officials hadn’t been able to get in to assess damage as of yet.

“It’s very hot. It’s dry, and it’s burning into areas where there are people,” Vestal said. “The No. 1 priority is to get people out of their homes and out of the area.”

The fact that the blaze was chewing through dry timber on both sides of the river, he noted, “presents a new challenge” to conditions that were already dangerous.

As the region braced for another day of triple-digit temperatures, Vestal said the fire’s “greatest danger is really dependent on which way the wind blows.”

The communities under the most imminent threat were Foresthill and Todd Valley, he said, but added that “the greatest potential for spread is south, toward the community of Cool.”

On Friday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state had obtained a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to bring more resources to fight the blaze.

The governor has also declared a state of emergency for El Dorado and Placer counties.

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