A tenacious heat wave and relentless winds plagued California firefighters battling the Mendocino “complex” fire that has grown to almost 300,000 acres and become the largest in state history.
The fire is actually two fires, dubbed 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 30 percent contained, is among more than a dozen roaring across the state.
More than 14,000 firefighters are combating the blazes.
In Mendocino and Lake counties, crews were working “aggressively” to hold previously established containment lines for the complex fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in an incident report released late Monday.
“A higher pressure system brought warmer weather, drying, and strong winds to the region,” the report said. “The Ranch Fire saw continued spread to the east-southeast sections.”
The fire, burning 150 miles northwest of San Francisco, has set ablaze more than 440 square miles, 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.
Among the other fires burning in California is the Carr Fire, now the 12th largest in state history. The fire in and around Redding has burned more than 160,000 acres and destroyed a stunning 1,080 homes – making the fire the sixth most destructive in state history. It was 47 percent contained.
Another fire has 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 had 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, claiming 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.”
Much of the water flowing to the ocean is actually diverted by the state, not the other way around. And 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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