California’s largest fire continues to grow, threatening homes, air quality and giant sequoias

The Mosquito Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills is California’s largest fire this year, and it continued to grow Thursday, threatening thousands of homes and the area’s air quality, as well as a historic grove of giant sequoias.

Fire officials are hoping some moisture in the forecast for this weekend could bring some relief, but remain cautious of forecast rain – likely no more than an inch — could make a significant difference in the shooting in Placer and El Dorado counties.

“The coming storm…that’s going to bring wind with it,” said Scott McLean, public information officer for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “We’ll see if we get any rain on the fire.”

The wildfire grew to 64,159 acres Thursday morning and is still only 20% contained, according to Cal Fire. More than 9,000 homes and structures remain threatened by the flames and 70 have already been destroyed. McLean said around 11,000 people have been ordered to evacuate since the fire began more than a week ago, with those orders still in effect.

“It will continue to grow to some extent,” McLean said. “This fire is mainly due to topography and fuel. … The terrain is just awful trying to find resources there.

This “historically dry” fuel coupled with specific atmospheric conditions triggered massive plumes out of the blaze, sending smoke and debris tens of thousands of feet into the air, blanketing much of the area in a dangerous haze that has not subsided.

The Reno area remains to “very unhealthy” air quality levels, up to 100 miles from the Mosquito Fire, according to the Washoe County Air Quality Management Division. Many communities in the central and northern foothills of California, including Grass Valley, were affected.

According to a recent study from the University of Utah.

“Our results suggest that wildfire activity in the western United States poses an increasing risk in terms of long-range smoke transport and air quality degradation,” the team found. from the university’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

“These kinds of air quality issues generated by wildfires are going to be a problem in the future, and we now have reason to believe that this deterioration in air quality could spread further in the space,” said Kai Wilmot, a postdoctoral researcher who worked on the study. . He said that when smoke enters higher parts of the atmosphere – as higher plumes induce – the smoke can move more efficiently and also be caught in different wind speeds and directions, making it travel not only farther, but also in many directions.

The Mosquito Fire also threatens one of the state’s smaller groves of giant sequoias, located near the southern edge of Tahoe National Forest.

“Over the past two years, we’ve lost nearly 20 percent of all giant sequoias on earth to high-intensity fires, so we’re going to work hard to make sure this grove isn’t part of that statistic.” , Garrett Dickman, a forest ecologist from Yosemite National Park, told OnScene.TV.

Dickman, who was called in to help with the Mosquito fire, said in the video that crews were working to remove extremely parched brush from the base of the trees and will be carrying out a planned burn in the grove to try to protect the seven adults and six younger redwoods in the area known as the Placer Grove of Big Trees.

While wildfires are a natural part of the giant sequoia’s life cycle, the extreme blazes that topple tall trees have proven deadly, especially in recent years, as climate change intensifies the fires.

“Because of the combustibles and how dry they are, these flames are overtaking these trees and they just can’t survive this,” Dickman told OnScene.TV. “We are preparing to burn it on our own terms and not let the fire come to us.”

Firefighters are battling the state’s largest fire of the year from all angles, McLean said, with more than 3,600 people assigned to the Mosquito blaze. He hoped cooler temperatures and increased humidity on Thursday would help operations, but said the blaze remained intense – as did their fight.

“We use all of our tools in the toolbox,” McLean said.

Los Angeles Times

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