A wildfire that’s burned through more than 63,000 acres in Northern California became the largest in the state this year as more than 3,000 emergency personnel combat the blaze.
The Mosquito Fire is burning up the Tahoe and Eldorado national forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, eating up dry forestland fueled by southwest winds.
The inferno has also threatened more than 9,000 nearby structures in El Dorado and Placer counties, prompting the evacuation of more than 11,000 people.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared an emergency for the two counties, located in the greater Sacramento metropolitan area, and more than 11,000 people have evacuated so far.
At least 64 structures have been completely destroyed and at least 10 were damaged by the smoke and fire.
The Mosquito Fire, which sparked on Sept. 6, is only 20 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.
The state firefighting agency said in a status update the “eastern front continues to steadily grow” as the conflagration moves into “dense forested areas with critically dry fuels and little fire history.”
Dave Soldavini, an operations chief for the California Interagency Incident Management Team, said during a Wednesday night briefing there was a low but possible risk of the Mosquito Fire moving further south.
Soldavini said one major strategy for firefighters is pushing the wildfire down to the Rubicon River west of Lake Tahoe.
“We found a very improbable place where we are anticipating good success,” he said, adding they were “expecting it to hold” once accomplished.
Lt. Josh Barnhart with the Placer County Sherriff’s Office said Wednesday it’s unclear when people would be able to repopulate the areas covered under an emergency evacuation order.
“As evidenced yesterday, you can see how quickly the fire can move in,” he told residents. “We just can’t do that so quickly.”
El Dorado officials echoed a similar concern at the meeting.
Pictures uploaded to Twitter show the fire has colored the sky orange in the areas the blaze is eating through, with plumes of smoke drifting across the region.
Last week, a photojournalist tweeted the humungous smoke cloud from the Mosquito Fire could be seen from Concord, Calif., more than two hours away from El Dorado.
Prior to the Mosquito Fire, the largest wildfire California had experienced this year was the McKinney Fire, which burned through more than 60,000 acres.