Wildfire in California causes thousands to evacuate, impacts Western States course

The Mosquito wildfire, which began west of Lake Tahoe amid extreme heat on Sept. 6, is the largest fire currently burning in California. The blaze has already burned through 58,544 acres in El Dorado and Placer counties.

Western States Endurance Run (WSER), one of the most famous ultra trail races in the world, sits right in Mosquito’s path. Runners begin the annual, much-revered 100-mile race in Auburn, and finish on the track at Placer High School.

On Tuesday afternoon the fire flared up, pushing toward the community of Foresthill and arriving at the edge of Foresthill High School, blazing through structures across the street. Firefighters appear to have kept the fires away from the high school, but it’s not clear how many cars and structures were consumed in the flare-up.

We connected with Craig Thornley, race director of WSER, on Tuesday. “Lives and homes are the highest priority right now. The WSER trail and our race is a lower priority,” Thornley said.

“That said, eventually the fire will be contained and the US Forest Service will be able to go in and assess the damage to the WS trail and the bridges. Currently, the fire has affected the trail as far up as Devil’s Thumb [aid station] through El Dorado Canyon and Michigan Bluff, to the turnoff onto the single track from Chicken Hawk. That’s about 10 miles of trail. It still could burn up towards Last Chance and Dusty Corners, but it is unclear what effect the burn scar will have on fire growth,” added Thornley.

The flames have forced more than 11,200 people to flee as they encroach on homes and buildings, burning 64 structures by Wednesday including at least 25 homes, according to Cal Fire. The fire grew more than 8,000 acres overnight and is spreading through the Sierra Nevada mountains.

“It continues to push steadily to the east in heavily forested areas with extremely dry vegetation,” officials said Wednesday morning. There is some optimism, however, as firefighters have the fire now 20 per cent contained.

posted Thursday September 15th
by Keeley Milne