How Mendocino Complex became California's monster fire

Aug 08, 2018, 01:38
How Mendocino Complex became California's monster fire

"There were no firefighters here whatsoever until I called 911 and they sent some firefighters because they were all back in the valley paying attention to other fires", said Easter.

The Mendocino Complex Fire has now surpassed last year's Thomas Fire, which burned 281,893 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, as the largest fire in Cal Fire history.

It was the second fire to break records in the fire-prone, most populous U.S. state in as many years, following the Thomas Fire in December 2017, which destroyed 281,893 acres.

The two fires burning a few miles apart and known as the Mendocino Complex are being treated as one incident.

The Carr Fire-which has torched 164,413 acres in the scenic Shasta-Trinity region north of Sacramento since breaking out on July 23-was 47 percent contained. It killed two people, including a firefighter, and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings before being fully contained on January 12.

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The Ranch and River fires, which make up the complex fire, had grown to 283,800 acres as of Monday evening, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The size of the fires surpasses a blaze last December in Southern California that burned 281,893 acres.It killed two people, including a firefighter, and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings before being fully contained on January 12. Two years ago, the Clayton fire tore through nearly 4,000 acres and 300 structures, many of them mobile homes and rentals.

Officials had set a target to extinguish the fire by mid-August, but they now say they will need until early September.

"On the River Fire we continued to increase containment and work towards tieing (sic) in the remaining containment lines to Scotts Valley Road", officials said.

The wildfire about 225 miles (360 kilometers) north of San Francisco started more than two weeks ago by sparks from the steel wheel of a towed-trailer's flat tire. Mandatory evacuations are still in place for areas in Lake, Colusa, and Mendocino County.

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Several thousand people have been evacuated, although some have been given permission in recent days to return to their homes.

After igniting in a relatively small area on Monday afternoon it mushroomed to 4,000 acres and was not contained at all as of Tuesday morning, according to the US Forest Service.

No homes are immediately threatened but officials warn that smoke could blanket neighborhoods and create unhealthy conditions. The almost century-old Dardanelle Resort has sustained massive structural damage, though the details were unclear, the Sacramento Bee newspaper reported.

"We have plenty of water to fight these wildfires, but let's be clear: It's our changing climate that is leading to more severe and destructive fires", Daniel Berlant, CalFire assistant deputy director, told The New York Times.

Experts say 2018 has the worst start to the fire season in 10 years - partly due to the 2012-2017 drought that killed off large amounts of vegetation.

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