Mosquito Fire explodes in size, threatens air quality

PLACER COUNTY – The Mosquito Fire raging in Placer County more than doubled in size Thursday, crossing over into neighboring El Dorado County and throwing a column of smoke so high into the atmosphere it was visible from the East Bay.

As of 8:30 p.m., the wildfire covered at least 13,705 acres, up from 5,705 acres nearly 24 hours earlier, according to Cal Fire. Crews had yet to contain any part of the blaze.

In an incident update, Cal Fire said the Mosquito Fire “showed extreme fire behavior and growth,” but crews were working to strengthen and build new control lines.

“The fire is burning in extremely difficult terrain including steep canyons where directly attacking the fire can be difficult,” Cal Fire said.

Smoke from the fire is also affecting air quality in the Sacramento Valley and Lake Tahoe areas. On Wednesday, Placer County Health and Human Services and the Placer County Air Pollution Control District issued a joint advisory through Friday to notify the public of the potential for poor air quality conditions in Placer and El Dorado counties.

The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District also issued a smoke advisory. Smoke from the fire was expected to blow into eastern Sacramento Valley on Thursday and Friday, increasing particle levels primarily in Folsom, Orangevale and Fair Oaks. The air quality index for both days was expected to be unhealthy.

The fire ignited Tuesday in Placer County near the Oxbow Reservoir and has burned into the town of Michigan Bluff. On Thursday, it crossed into El Dorado County and was threatening communities including Georgetown, Volcanoville and Quintette.

At least 1,000 structures remain threatened. Cal Fire said it was aware of reports of damaged structures, adding that an assessment will take place when fire conditions allow.

Evacuations have been ordered in both counties.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. In a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said the U.S. Forest Service had wrapped caution tape around the base of one of its 60-kilovolt transmission poles.

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