Homes still threatened, progress made on California wildfire

FORESTHILL, Calif. (AP) — A massive wildfire in Northern California was still growing and threatening thousands of mountain homes in two counties, but firefighters were making some progress against the flames thanks to cold weather, authorities said Sunday.

The Mosquito Fire in the foothills east of Sacramento has spread to nearly 65 square miles (168 square kilometers), with 10 percent containment, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

“Cooler temperatures and higher humidity helped reduce fire activity,” but stronger winds allowed flames to push north and northeast, according to a Cal Fire incident report Sunday.

More than 5,800 structures in Placer and El Dorado counties were threatened, and about 11,000 residents of communities including Foresthill and Georgetown were ordered to evacuate.

In Southern California, cool temperatures and rain brought respite to firefighters battling the massive Fairview wildfire about 75 miles (121 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles after sweltering heat last week.

The 44-square-mile (114-square-kilometer) fire was 45 percent contained Sunday. The fire has destroyed at least 30 homes and other structures in Riverside County. Two people died while escaping the flames last Monday.

The southern part of the state welcomed cooler weather over the weekend as a tropical storm drifted off the Pacific coast and weakened, helping end temperatures that nearly overwhelmed the state’s power grid.

Thunderstorms could linger in mountainous areas of greater Los Angeles on Sunday. But after Hurricane Kay made landfall in Mexico last week, it quickly downgraded and weakened further until it was largely gone, forecasters said.

The Mosquito Fire has covered much of the Northern Sierra region in smoke. California health officials urged people in affected areas to stay indoors where possible. Tour de Tahoe organizers canceled the annual 72-mile (115 km) bike ride planned for Sunday around Lake Tahoe because of thick smoke from the wildfire — more than 50 miles (80 km) away. Last year’s ride was canceled due to smoke from another large wildfire south of Tahoe.

The cause of the mosquito fire remains under investigation. Pacific Gas & Electric said unspecified “electrical activity” occurred near the report of the fire Tuesday.

Scientists say climate change has made the West hotter and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. Over the past five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive wildfires in the state’s history.

And the rest of the West has not been immune. As of Saturday, there were 18 large wildfires in Oregon and Washington, prompting evacuations and targeted power outages near Portland as the challenge of dry and windy conditions continued across the region. According to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, there are nearly 406 square miles (1,051 square kilometers) of active, uncontrolled fires and nearly 5,000 people on the ground fighting them in the two states.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *