Mosquito fire: Weekend rain helps slow California’s biggest wildfire of the year

The Mosquito Fire, which has burned nearly 75,000 acres, is now 34 percent contained, a big jump from Friday’s 20 percent containment, according to InciWeb’s Sunday morning update.

The update said overnight fire behavior was “minimal” as all areas of the fire received rainfall.

“Light and sporadic rain is expected Sunday morning, but by the afternoon and evening, heavy and widespread rain showers are expected. By Monday morning, most fires could receive more than an inch of rain,” the update said.

“The rain changes the firefighting strategy to some extent, but it does not change the priority to improve the conditions in the evacuated areas so that the residents can return.”

The storm system represents an early and significant rain event that experts say could slow down the ongoing fire season — at least temporarily. While this weekend’s rain and cooler temperatures may help contain the fire immediately in the short term, a long-term drought persists across the state.

“Fuels are still very dry, near record levels, and warmer, drier weather will follow the rain,” the National Weather Service in Sacramento said. he tweeted. “But the good news is that any rain will help new or ongoing fires!”
Almost the entire state of California remains in drought conditions and is likely to continue to encourage the development of new wildfires this month and into October.
The Mosquito Fire has become California’s largest wildfire this year since it broke out more than a week ago in the Sierra Nevada Mountains between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.
Follow the growth of Mosquito Fire here

More rain was expected on Sunday and Monday

The system’s heaviest precipitation is likely Sunday through Monday, when 0.3 inches could fall along the coast and 3 inches over the mountains.

To put the seasonally high rainfall totals into perspective, San Francisco and Sacramento average less than a tenth of an inch of rain in September.

San Francisco last saw rain on August 1st, but it was barely a few hundred inches. It’s been a dry year for the Golden City with only 1.9 inches of rain recorded since January 1, putting the city nearly 11 inches below normal rainfall so far this year.

The last time Sacramento saw measurable rain was more than three months ago on June 5th. They’ve only seen 2.17 inches of rain this year, which is less than about 10 inches, so far.

September is also the third driest month of the year for these cities, behind August and July, as September and October coincide with the peak of fire season in northern and central California.

California's fight against drought has a new tool: Mitigation

A Category 1 Excess Precipitation Warning out of 4 has been issued for Sunday for parts of northern and central coastal California, with rainfall rates of up to half an inch per hour possible, which could lead to flash flooding.

“While a lot of precipitation may be beneficial, some isolated runoff problems may occur in urban areas and/or steep terrain,” the Weather Prediction Center said.

A low pressure system is likely to linger along the West Coast early next week, keeping rain chances in the forecast through at least Tuesday.

Rain won’t be the only benefit of this storm. Temperatures will also drop below normal through the weekend, only in the 60s and 70s across much of central and northern California.

Temperatures could be quite cold in the Sierra at elevations above 8,000 feet, with some light snow accumulating Sunday into Monday night.

The NWS San Francisco office said weekend temperatures are “definitely zone-friendly given the record-breaking heat much of the area experienced last week.”

The unseasonable weather pattern is welcome, but not expected to last long.

“Then warmer and drier weather is forecast for the area for most of the latter part of next week [weather models] Show that they are trying to develop high pressure over the Northeast Pacific,” said the NWS office in Eureka.

The Climate Prediction Center’s 8- and 14-day forecast also shows signs of warmer, drier weather during the last week of September and a return to October.

CNN meteorologists Allison Chinchar and Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.