How the Mendocino Complex fire became the largest in California history

Aug 08, 2018, 00:38
How the Mendocino Complex fire became the largest in California history

Meteorologist Alex Hoon said during a briefing Monday that he is hopeful a high-pressure system moving into the region this week will help contain the blaze.

There have been no deaths associated with the Mendocino Complex Fire, which actually began as two separate fires - the River Fire and Ranch Fire - before merging into one incident.

A combination of wildfires raging north of San Francisco, which already has consumed an area nearly as big as Los Angeles, is on pace to become the largest in California history, fire officials said.

Cal Fire deputy chief Scott McLean described the wildfires as "extremely fast, extremely aggressive [and] extremely dangerous". That fire started in the Cleveland National Forest and evacuations in the nearby areas have been ordered, according to the Orange County Fire Authority. "Since civilisation emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven't had this kind of heat condition, and it's going to continue getting worse". It has forced thousands from their homes and destroyed over 80 residences, rapidly becoming the most pressing of the 18 wildfires raging across the state.

The Mendocino Complex, which is comprised of two massive fires whose edges are as close as three miles apart, is not almost finished. That fire ended up burning 281,893 acres before being contained.

Officials had set a target to extinguish the fire by mid-August, but they now say they will need until early September. By Monday, it has become the second-largest California wildfire on record, surpassing the size of a massive blaze that killed 15 people in 2003 in San Diego County.

Hotter weather attributed to climate change is drying out vegetation, creating more intense fires that spread quickly from rural areas to city subdivisions, climate and fire experts say.

At 443.4 square miles and growing, the Mendocino Complex blaze is now California's largest ever wildfire. Two years ago, the Clayton fire tore through nearly 4,000 acres and 300 structures, many of them mobile homes and rentals.

On Sunday, 140 fire managers and specialists from Australia and New Zealand underwent special training and were outfitted with safety gear at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, before being deployed to battle fires in the Pacific Northwest and California.

What are firefighters doing to stop the Mendocino Complex Fire?

The larger Ranch Fire remained active overnight, expanding to 241,772 acres and continuing to hold at 20 percent containment, due in part to dry, heavy fuel, high temperatures and limited access to the area by firefighters.

"The soldiers will be outfitted with wildland fire Personal Protective Equipment and all of the gear they will need to serve as wildland firefighters", U.S. Northern Command said in a statement. Jerry Brown had written in his request to Trump for a presidential major disaster declaration.

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