A lawsuit was filed January 18 against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. by El Dorado County and Placer County seeking damages related to the 2022 Mosquito Fire, which burned almost 77,000 acres over 50 days in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The two counties, along with the El Dorado Water Agency, Georgetown Divide Public Utilities District, and Georgetown Divide Fire Protection District, filed the lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court. The fire burned mostly on the Tahoe and El Dorado National Forests and caused evacuations of more than 11,000 people.
The suit alleges that PG&E’s equipment caused the fire, which started on September 6 near the community of Foresthill, according to a report by CBS News.
“The lawsuit seeks to hold PG&E accountable and to help our community rebuild after this devastating fire,” said El Dorado County counsel David Livingston. The Mosquito Fire started near the Oxbow Reservoir at the Middle Fork American River, according to the Sacramento Bee, and it destroyed 78 structures, including dozens of homes in the Placer County community of Michigan Bluff and the El Dorado County town of Volcanoville. It was not contained till October 27.
The county filed the lawsuit one day before PG&E officials were scheduled to appear in Shasta County Superior Court for a criminal case related to the 2020 Zogg Fire, which killed four people and which Cal Fire investigators have blamed on PG&E equipment. Shasta County prosecutors charged PG&E with four counts of involuntary manslaughter; the utility company in June pleaded not guilty.
The Mosquito Fire lawsuit follows a legal settlement earlier this week in which 10 public entities agreed to $24 million from PG&E for damages caused by the 2021 Dixie Fire, which started July 13 and burned over 963,300 acres across Plumas, Lassen, Butte, Shasta, and Tehama counties. Plaintiffs include the five counties, along with the City of Susanville, Plumas District Hospital, Chester Public Utility District, Honey Lake Valley Recreation Authority, and Herlong Public Utility District.
“Local government across the five affected counties came together to recover these significant funds to reimburse public and natural resources lost in the fire,” Gretchen Stuhr with Plumas County told The Plumas News. “The allocated portion of the settlement proceeds will in no way make the entities whole following the devastation caused by the Dixie and Fly Fires but will assist the County in its recovery.”
The fire has burned 76,781 acres and destroyed 78 structures near Foresthill, California
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a Wednesday morning briefing on the Mosquito Fire Operations Section Chief Donald Fregulia said the westernmost part of the fire near Foresthill is being lined by fire crews today which should eliminate any further spread near the community. On Tuesday the fire spotted across the Middle Fork of the American River and ran upslope to, but did not cross, Foresthill Road. He did not mention that multiple structures and vehicles were destroyed Tuesday afternoon. However, due to previous work that had been done by property owners and firefighters, many structures were saved.
On the north side Tuesday night, firefighters conducted a defensive firing operation, working north along the Foresthill Divide Road. They reached Deadwood Road and then turned south. The intent is to prevent any further spread to the north in that area.
Mr. Fregullia said the fire had burned 58,544 acres and 3,052 personnel were assigned.
Updated 6:48 a.m. PDT Sept. 14, 2022
The spot fire that ignited across the Middle Fork of the American River below Foresthill, California Tuesday afternoon spread vigorously up the slope toward the community. It reached or came close to Foresthill Road in several places. Multiple structures and vehicles were destroyed across the street from the high school, but it did not cross the road. It could have been worse if not for the efforts of firefighters on the ground and numerous retardant and water drops by air tankers and helicopters.
The FIRIS aircraft mapped the fire at 5 a.m. today and found that it had burned about 61,000 acres.
KCRA, a Sacramento TV station, in recent years has had to cover numerous massive, dangerous wildfires. Their experience shows in the below video that was part of their evening news on Tuesday. Farther down in the article is a Tweet that has almost 90 minutes of the station’s helicopter coverage as the fire was spreading up the slope to Foresthill.
Updated 8:18 p.m. PDT Sept. 13, 2022
The FIRIS aircraft mapped the Mosquito Fire Tuesday evening. Most of the growth was on the east side, but the new spot fire near Foresthill added more than 1,100 acres. The total size increased to 58,000 acres.
To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Mosquito Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.
It did not spread as rapidly through the fires of 2013 and 2014 as it did in the areas with no recent fire history. But is has spread from 0.5 to 1.0 mile into the footprint of the 2013 American Fire.
Updated 5:35 p.m. PDT Sept. 13, 2022
KCRA has a live view of the Mosquito Fire as it threatens Foresthill, California. It may be in and out, limited by fuel and other factors; or, may be replaying video shot earlier.
The activity of the Mosquito Fire at Foresthill, California was subdued Monday due to high humidities in the morning and a few scattered sprinkles. But today, Tuesday, the skies are mostly clear and the humidity has been lower, resulting in multiple convection columns building over the blaze.
At about 2 or 2:30 p.m. a spot fire ignited on the western-most part of the fire south-southwest of Foresthill near the Middle Fork of the American River. It grew very quickly and was soon mapped by the FIRIS aircraft at 93 acres. Then the spot fire created another spot fire uphill and to the north, closer to Foresthill. Air tankers and helicopters were seen by the Foresthill camera working on the spots, but by 3:30 p.m. they had merged into one 300-acre spot fire spreading toward Foresthill.
At about 4:10 p.m. radio traffic indicated that the spot fire was close to reaching the area of the Foresthill Divide school.
We will update this article as more information becomes available.