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Dozens of buildings burn as gusty winds fan California wildfire

A section of Interstate 80 was closed after a second fire ignited near the community of Dutch Flat.

Dozens of buildings burned and a major interstate was closed as gusty winds fanned a large wildfire in California’s Sierra Nevada and ignited another blaze nearby, authorities said Tuesday.

The Mosquito Fire tore through 51 buildings, destroying 46 of them, in the small community of Michigan Bluff, west of South Lake Tahoe, Placer County Sheriff’s Lt. Josh Barnhart said in a statement.

The sheriff’s office issued new evacuation orders for the region Tuesday, bringing the number of people who have fled the fire to more than 11,000, according to NBC affiliate KCRA of Sacramento.

There have been no reports of injuries or deaths in the fire, which ignited Sept. 6 in a record heat wave that left a region already parched by a historic drought primed for dangerous fire weather. 

Several people have died in California wildfires in recent weeks, including two in a blaze that sparked southeast of Los Angeles and two more near the Oregon border.

The Mosquito Fire had swelled to nearly 50,000 acres by Tuesday afternoon, and it was 18% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

Image: Mosquito Fire
Firefighter Davis Sommer lights a backfire to burn off vegetation while battling the Mosquito Fire in the Volcanoville community of El Dorado County, Calif., on Sept. 9, 2022.Noah Berger / AP

Dramatic aerial video from KCRA showed air tankers dumping payloads of brightly colored retardant over giant smoke columns as the fire appeared to make a run toward the community of Foresthill, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist and wildfire expert at UCLA.

Swain said large pyrocumulonimbus clouds — which can generate thunder, lightning and tornado-force winds — appeared to be building on the fire's flanks in the breezy, record-dry conditions.

Roughly 20 miles west, a second blaze erupted Tuesday near the community of Dutch Flat, just off Interstate 80, the Placer County Sheriff's Office said.

Several roads in the area were under mandatory evacuation orders. The fire, which the sheriff's office described as a vegetation fire, was at 25 acres with no containment Tuesday afternoon.

The causes of both blazes remained under investigation, Cal Fire said.