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Rain makes mosquito fires easier to fight, but brings risk of flooding and mudslide

Rain showers that began Sunday afternoon bring welcome moisture to the Mosquito Fire, but also an increased risk of mudslides and flooding in a heavily forested corner of Northern California.

The storm system – which brought cold temperatures and high humidity – is expected to last until early Wednesday morning, said Scott Rowe, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sacramento. A flash flood watch will be in effect for the area burned from the Mosquito Fire, California’s largest fire this year, from noon Tuesday through noon Wednesday.

Already, the rain has helped the firefighting effort. From Sunday evening, the fire had charred 76,290 acres in El Dorado and Placer counties and was 38% contained — up from 20% on Saturday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“Things are starting to look a lot better,” said Scott McLean, spokesman for the Joint Fire Command.

Evacuation orders were lifted in some communities between Foresthill and Auburn on Sunday.

But firefighting conditions are likely to remain difficult on the east side of the blaze, where the terrain is rugged and steep, McLean said.

“All this rain is going to create mud,” he said. “Traversing through this area will be difficult and potentially dangerous.”

Fire officials are also concerned about potential mud and debris flows in the burn scar, as plants that would normally hold the hill in place have been decimated by the flames, McLean said.

By Thursday, the scorched area is expected to be hot and dry, with temperatures in the upper 70s and lower 80s expected to remain and potentially increase through the weekend.

“When the vegetation dries out, another bad situation could develop,” McLean said. “We have to be prepared for that.”

Los Angeles Times

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