Twin fires north of San Francisco burning just miles apart became the largest collective wildfire in state history on Monday. The Mendocino Complex fire has destroyed more than 443 square miles of forest and rural areas. It’s still growing. (Aug. 7)
A tenacious heat wave and relentless winds Tuesday plagued California crews battling the Mendocino Complex Fire, which has grown to more than 450 square miles and become the largest in state history.
The Complex Fire is actually two fires, the Ranch and River fires, burning a short distance apart that have destroyed 75 homes, along with 68 other buildings. The Complex Fire, listed as 34 percent contained, is among more than a dozen roaring across the state.
More than 14,000 firefighters are battling the blazes.
In Mendocino and Lake counties, crews worked “aggressively” to hold containment lines for the Complex Fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
“The Ranch Fire remained active overnight, expanding further north and east, continuing to challenge fire crews due to limited access, heavy fuel loads, low fuel moisture, and high temperatures,” Cal Fire said. “Today resources continue to be deployed to all areas of the Ranch Fire perimeter.”
The fire, 150 miles northwest of San Francisco, has set ablaze an area almost half the size of Rhode Island. The state’s previous largest fire tore through sections of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties in December.
Smoke damage from the fire has forced one Lake County school district to delay the start of classes, scheduled for Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.
The Lakeport Unified School District, which has about 1,500 students in grades K-12, has classrooms that need to be cleared of smoke before students can return to classes, superintendent secretary Tami Carley said.
It’s likely that the school year will be delayed for at least two weeks, she said.
Among the other blazes in California is the Carr Fire, the 12th-largest in state history. The fire in and around Redding has burned more than 260 square miles and destroyed 1,077 homes, which makes it the state’s sixth most destructive. It was 47 percent contained Tuesday.
Another fire forced closure of Yosemite National Park’s crown jewel, the Yosemite Valley, for almost two weeks. Park officials had to scrap plans to reopen last weekend, saying the Ferguson Fire damaged access roads and made the area unsafe.
“Fire managers are continuously assessing conditions in the area and will work directly with and will immediately advise park managers as conditions change and it becomes safe to reopen,” park officials said in a statement.
President Donald Trump addressed the fires in a tweet Monday and said they were “being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean.”
Cal Fire said in a statement that it has plenty of water to fight the fires, adding that “the current (hot, dry, windy) weather is causing more severe and destructive fires.”
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