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State of emergency declared as raging Mosquito Fire moves into El Dorado County

Bay Area crews head to Sierra to battle Mosquito Fire
Bay Area crews head to Sierra to battle Mosquito Fire 03:28

MICHIGAN BLUFF -- Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency Thursday for El Dorado and Placer counties due to the rapidly-growing Mosquito Fire.

A state of emergency has also been declared in Riverside County due to the deadly Fairview Fire, officials announced early Thursday evening.   

Mosquito Fire
Mosquito Fire burning in El Dorado and Placer counties. U.S. Forestry Service

The Mosquito Fire continued its rapid growth in the drought-parched timberlands of the Sierra Nevada, roaring though the mountain community of Michigan Bluff, burning structures and vehicles and forcing residents to flee to safety.

UPDATE: Raging Mosquito Fire jumps over American River; structures burn in Volcanoville

During their Thursday evening update, Cal Fire officials said that while containment lines around Foresthill were strengthened over the course of the day, some structures were still under threat. 

The bigger push came from the Oxbow Reservoir area south where the fire spotted across the American River and into El Dorado County, growing over 5,000 acres in the matter of a few hours. That was where the fire moved into the area of Volcanoville, damaging an unknown number of structures.

That growth led to new evacuation orders and warnings there in addition to expanding evacuation orders in Placer County. The fire burned structures in the mountain hamlet of Volcanoville and moved closer to the town of Foresthill. Fire spokesperson Chris Vestal called the fast-moving blaze an "extreme and critical fire threat."

The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection warned the Reno area that air quality could be very unhealthy to hazardous due to smoke from the Mosquito Fire 100 miles. A massive cloud of smoke was hovering over the Lake Tahoe area, darkening the skies there.

The fire was producing huge pyrocumulus plumes as it continued its explosive growth. There were reports that the fire had grown over 5,500 acres just in the space of a few hours. By some estimates, the Mosquito Fire was over 13,700 acres as of 5:15 p.m.

Also on Thursday, PG&E said an electrical fault was recorded close to the start of the Mosquito Fire on Tuesday. The utility company announced that they had submitted an Electric Incident Report to the California Public Utilities Commission.

While the fault happened around the same time as the start the Mosquito Fire, PG&E noted that they haven't seen any damage or abnormal conditions at the power pole. Further, PG&E says no downed conductor has been found and no vegetation or tree could be found on the line.

Notably, PG&E also stated that the pole and equipment had gotten an enhance inspection within the last five months.

In its morning update, Cal Fire said the blaze burning near the Oxbow Reservoir in the Tahoe National Forest had grown to 6,870 acres of brush and timber with zero containment.

The blaze has forced residents to evacuate in both Placer and El Dorado counties.

Evacuation maps: El Dorado CountyPlacer County

"As you've seen with the smoke column coming up, this fire continues to give us a hard time," Cal Fire Division Chief Mike Rufenacht said in a video briefing.

The Mosquito Fire has burned several structures and at least 10 cars near the Gold Rush-era community of Michigan Bluff about an hour northwest of Sacramento.

The rugged mountain terrain was challenging the small army of state and federal firefighters battling the blaze.

"The fire is burning in extremely difficult terrain including steep canyons where directly attacking the fire can be difficult," Cal Fire said in a news release.

An added misery for firefighters was the ongoing heat wave that was driving temperatures to triple digits throughout the state.

"The weather in the fire area will continue to be extremely hot and dry overnight and into tomorrow (Thursday)," Cal Fire said. "Combined with very low fuel moistures fire conditions are likely to replicate Wednesday's behavior during the overnight period and into tomorrow's operational period."

The fire was also threatening critical power infrastructures. 

Among those were the PCWA pump station and dam, 230 kV electrical transmission lines, the Sugar Pine Dam and community drinking water supply and the Ralston hydroelectric powerhouse. Evacuation orders are available on the Cal Fire incident page.

The below evacuation centers are currently open: 

  • Bell Road Baptist Church (77 Bell Road in Auburn)
  • Foresthill Veterans Memorial Hall (24601 Harrison St, Foresthill)
  • Cool Community Church (863 Cave Valley Road, Cool). 
  • Animals can be taken to Placer County Animal Services Center (11232 B Avenue in Auburn)
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