Forest Service seized PG&E equipment during investigation of Mosquito Fire

The fire has burned 76,781 acres and destroyed 78 structures near Foresthill, California

Mosquito Fire
Mosquito Fire as seen looking ENE from the Auburn camera at 5:32 p.m. Sept. 8, 2022. AlertWildfire.

US Forest Service investigators working to determine the cause of the Mosquito Fire have taken possession of one of Pacific Gas and Electric’s transmission poles and attached equipment. According to a report released by the company September 24, the Forest Service said the fire started in the area of one of the company’s power lines on Forest Service land. PG&E is conducting their own investigation of the cause of the fire.

The agency has not released the cause of the fire which has burned 76,781 acres and destroyed 78 structures near Foresthill, California 35 miles northeast of Sacramento.

In October, 2020 investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection looking for the cause of the Zogg Fire southwest of Redding seized PG&E equipment. The fire which burned 56,338 acres, destroyed 204 structures, and resulted in four civilian fatalities, was caused by a tree contacting a power line operated by PG&E. In September, 2021 the company was charged with manslaughter and dozens of other charges related to the fire.

In 2018 investigators seized parts of a 99-year old PG&E transmission tower at the origin of the Camp Fire which burned into Paradise, California killing at least 85 people and making thousands homeless. In May, 2019 CAL FIRE announced that their investigators determined the fire was caused by the power line.

The Wall Street Journal (subscription) reported that investigators attributed more than 1,500 fires to PG&E power lines and hardware between June 2014 and December 2017. In 2021 we put together a list of 18 fires, mostly large, attributed to failures on PG&E power lines between 1999 and 2020.

Firefighters are mopping up the Mosquito Fire, which received substantial amounts of rain last week. It is still staffed by 1,248 personnel.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Kelly.

California’s Proposition 30 could add up to $1 billion to CAL FIRE’s budget

CAL FIRE budget

On November 8 California voters could approve a proposition that would add up to $1 billion to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection budget.

Proposition 30 would create an additional 1.75% state tax on personal income above $2 million that would used for zero-emission vehicle subsidies; zero-emission vehicle infrastructure, such as electric vehicle charging stations; and wildfire suppression and prevention programs.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office expects the measure would would raise $3.5 billion to $5 billion annually, growing over time. Of that, 20 percent would be spent on wildfire response and prevention activities. In general, the state would have to prioritize spending to hire, train, and retain state firefighters. The rest of the money could be used for other wildfire response and prevention activities. The proposition would increase state funding for wildfire response and prevention activities by $700 million to $1 billion annually. The state typically spends about $2 billion to $4 billion annually on wildfire activities, mostly on firefighting.

The other 80 percent of the additional revenue would be used to help households, businesses, and governments pay for part of the cost of new passenger zero emission vehicles, as well as electric vehicle charging stations at apartment buildings, single-family homes, and public locations.

In other news about California’s spending on its wildfire program, Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed $800 million over the next two years to implement various efforts to improve forest health and make communities more resilient to future wildfires.

Some areas of Mosquito Fire receive more than an inch of rain

Flash flood watch in effect for the burn scar

Updated 7:15 a.m. PDT Sept. 20, 2022

Heat detected by drone on the Mosquito Fire
Heat detected by drone a on the Mosquito Fire, nighttime mission Sept. 18, 2022. White represents heat. Darker shades are cooler. USFS.

Rain continues to fall on the Mosquito Fire with accumulations in or near the burn area ranging from 0.68″ to 2.22″.  A flash flood watch is in effect until Tuesday evening.

Precipitation accumulated, Mosquito Fire
Precipitation accumulated, Mosquito Fire area, 72 hours ending at 6:48 a.m. PDT Sept 20, 2022.

Firefighters are taking the opportunity to work close to the fire’s edge, constructing direct fire line using hand tools and dozers.

The precipitation is expected to taper off Tuesday and Tuesday night, with a few lingering showers on Wednesday. The forecast for the rest of the week shows no chance of rain, moderate winds, and the relative humidity returning to the 40s and 30s.

7:41 a.m. PDT Sept. 19, 2022

Precipitation, Mosquito Fire area
Precipitation, Mosquito Fire area, 48 hour period ending 7 a.m. PDT Sept 19, 2022. The dark green area is under a flash flood watch.

Several weather stations within or close to the Mosquito Fire have recorded more than an inch of precipitation during the 48-hour period ending at 7 a.m. PDT on Monday. Other stations measured 0.20″ to 0.54″.

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for the burn scar in effect until Tuesday evening.

Firefighters suppressing the Mosquito Fire
Firefighters suppressing the Mosquito Fire off Michigan Bluff Road, Sept. 7, 2022. Credit- Robert Foxworthy, CAL FIRE.

The forecast from the NWS predicts there is a greater than 50 percent chance the rain will continue at least through Tuesday with additional amounts that could exceed half an inch.

As a result of the rain, both the Placer and El Dorado County Sheriff Offices downgraded many of the Evacuation Orders and Warnings Sunday afternoon. Updated evacuation maps are available for Placer and El Dorado Counties.

Mosquito Fire map, 5 p.m. Sept. 17, 2022.
Mosquito Fire map, 5 p.m. Sept. 17, 2022. FIRIS.

On Monday firefighters took advantage of the favorable fire conditions to construct direct control lines along portions of the fire’s edge on the eastern flank. Firefighters with hand tools and heavy equipment, such as dozers, were out in force. Crews worked in the area of the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River as well as Interbay Road. Despite the rain showers, crews were able to successfully conduct firing operations along the Interbay Road due to the sustained dry fuel moisture in the vegetation. Crews were able to continue strengthening and holding control lines around the southeast corner near Stumpy Meadows.

The Mosquito Fire has burned 76,290 acres. More than 3,700 personnel are assigned.

Progress made on Mosquito Fire, but the weather will be changing

The fire is 35 miles northeast of Sacramento, CA

Updated 8:29 p.m. PDT Sept. 17, 2022

Mosquito Fire map
Mosquito Fire map. The red line was the perimeter at 3:58 p.m. Sept. 17, 2022. The white line was the perimeter at 8:45 p.m. September 15.

As expected, when the winds increased Saturday afternoon the activity on the east side of the Mosquito Fire picked up. Wind gusts measured at the Foresthill weather station began exceeding 15 mph at 11 a.m. and peaked at 24 mph at 1:30 p.m. The relative humidity was in the 40s until rising into the 50s at 6 p.m., after which the spread of the fire decreased.

The forecast calls for the RH Saturday night to reach 87 percent while the winds slow to 7 mph out of the south. The winds will increase Sunday out of the south to 15 mph with gusts of 21 to 25 mph. The chance of rain will rise throughout the day Sunday, reaching 66 percent by sunset. Precipitation could continue off and on through Wednesday, possibly exceeding an inch.

Mosquito Fire
Mosquito Fire, as seen looking southeast from the Blue Canyon camera at 4:16 p.m. Sept. 17.

The fuels, the vegetation, are extremely dry after years of drought. The rain event will not end the fire season in this part of the state, but assuming the precipitation arrives as expected the spread of the Mosquito Fire should slow to a crawl for several days, at least.

The fire was mapped at 3:58 p.m. Saturday at 73,381 acres.

Firefighters continue to make good progress holding the fire along the Eleven Pines Road and other control lines along the eastern flank. Crews were able to successfully engage in strategic firing operations Saturday to continue building a buffer along these control lines. Saturday night firefighters will patrol, mop up, and secure established control and containment lines in an effort to ensure the fire remains within these existing lines while it is being tested by this wind event.

Placer County is maintaining an evacuation map. Approximately 11,277 people are currently under evacuation orders.

Fire officials said 78 structures have been destroyed. On Saturday there were 3,729 personnel assigned to the fire.

Mosquito Fire map 8:45 p.m. Sept 15, 2022
Mosquito Fire map. The red line was the perimeter at 8:45 p.m. Sept 15, 2022. The white line was the perimeter at 4:22 p.m. Sept. 14. Note the location of the Giant Sequoia trees two miles east of the fire.

Firefighters are making good progress on the south, west, and north sides of the Mosquito Fire near Foresthill, California.

On the northeast side, the firing operation along Chicken Hawk, Old Foresthill, and Deadwood Roads is complete and is being mopped up. This will reduce the chance of the fire spreading further to the west and northwest.

Below Todd Valley on the west side, another firing operation is tying in that corner of the fire with the Middle Fork American River. Much of the south side from Volcanoville past Quintette is looking fairly secure.

What is left is the east side which this week, pushed by the prevailing winds out of the southwest, has been moving east about a half mile each day. Firefighters are prepping multiple north-south roads out ahead to the east which could serve as indirect firelines when complete.

Mosquito Fire Truckee Hotshots firing operation
Tahoe National Forest’s Truckee Hotshots conducting a firing operation on Buckeye Ridge between Volcanoville and American River. Credit: Dustin Freedman, USDA Forest Service. Posted Sept. 15, 2022.

Two miles east of the fire is the northernmost grove of Giant Sequoias (see map above), trees that can live for 3,000 years during normal climate conditions or if managed and protected appropriately. On Thursday firefighters completed a four-acre burn in this small grove. This was to reduce the fuel so that when the main fire comes through hopefully these huge trees will be protected.

Northernmost Giant Sequoia grove
Northernmost Giant Sequoia grove, Tahoe NF, Aug. 13, 2022. Note the person, for scale, between the two trees on the right. Photo by Don Hosford.

The weather on Friday will be similar to what we have seen for several days, moderate relative humidity and wind. That will change Saturday as a system comes in that starts in the afternoon with strong southwest winds gusting to 23 mph, but the RH will still be moderate, in the upper 30s. These winds could throw out burning embers far ahead of the fire, starting spot fires that could increase the rate of spread significantly. Saturday night the wind will come out of the south at 14 mph and that is when the chances for rain begin. By Sunday morning the chances increase to 50 percent and through Monday will vary, but could be as high as 80 percent. The NWS forecast predicts the amount of precipitation through Tuesday could exceed one inch.

Mosquito Fire, American River Hotshots
Tahoe National Forest’s American River Hotshots receiving an early morning briefing before heading to the fireline on their home district. Credit: Bobby Blaine, US Forest Service.

Smoke from California’s Mosquito Fire expected to move into Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho

smoke forecast fire wildfire
Forecast for distribution of smoke at 1 a.m. PDT Sept. 16, 2022. NOAA.

Wednesday afternoon most of the smoke from the Mosquito Fire 35 miles northeast of Sacramento was moving into Northern Nevada. But that changed overnight as it spread northwest toward Chico and Redding in north-central California.

A forecast produced by NOAA expects that by 1 a.m. Friday it will again be moving into Northern Nevada, Eastern Oregon, and Southern Idaho. And from there, most likely Montana.

satellite photo Mosquito Fire California
Satellite photo showing smoke from the Mosquito Fire at 8:11 a.m. PDT Sept. 15, 2022.

Below is the current air quality, produced by AirNow.

Air quality map
Air quality, from AirNow, at 8:54 a.m. PDT Sept 15, 2022.
Air quality map Mosquito Fire
Air quality, vicinity of Mosquito Fire, from AirNow, at 8:54 a.m. PDT Sept 15, 2022.

Photos of smoke columns not often seen

Mosquito Fire, September 13, 2022

8:43 p.m. PDT September 13, 2022

Mosquito Fire, September 13, 2022. smoke
The Mosquito Fire, looking NE from the Bald Mtn Eldorado camera, during the afternoon of Sept. 13, 2022. AlertWildfire.

These photos of the Mosquito Fire 35 miles northeast of Sacramento taken by one of the AlertWildfire cameras Tuesday afternoon are unlike those we usually see over fires. Some of them appear to have altocumulus lenticularis clouds embedded or capping the column. Perhaps a meteorologist can weigh in with a more detailed explanation.

To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Mosquito Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.

Mosquito Fire, September 13, 2022. smoke
The Mosquito Fire, looking NE from the Bald Mtn Eldorado camera, during the afternoon of Sept. 13, 2022. AlertWildfire.
Mosquito Fire, September 13, 2022. smoke
The Mosquito Fire, looking NE from the Bald Mtn Eldorado camera, during the afternoon of Sept. 13, 2022. AlertWildfire.
Mosquito Fire, September 13, 2022. smoke
The Mosquito Fire, looking NE from the Bald Mtn Eldorado camera, during the afternoon of Sept. 13, 2022. AlertWildfire.

Updated 6 a.m. PDT Sept. 15, 2022

One of our readers sent us this photo of a lenticular cloud over the Halfway Hill Fire smoke column near Price, Utah, July 11, 2022.

Lenticular cloud over the Halfway Hill Fire
Lenticular cloud over the Halfway Hill Fire smoke column near Price, Utah, July 11, 2022. Contributed.