Mendocino Complex Wildfire Becomes Second Largest in California History

Cal Fire authorities say the Mendocino Complex Wildfire has become the second-largest in California history after it scorched more than 273,000 acres in Lake County, California. 

The fire leapfrogged up to second place overnight after it burned through another 7,000 acres for a total of just under 274,000 acres burned. The fire in Northern California is only 30 percent contained as of 7 a.m. Monday morning. 

The wildfire has prompted evacuations in multiple counties including Mendocino, Lake and Colusa counties. In one bit of good news, the massive fire is located in a remote area making it far less destructive to property than the other dozen or so wildfires currently burning across the state. Only about 140 structures have been destroyed with no reported injuries. 

However, despite the lack of damage, firefighters caution that the Complex Fire is a dangerous one. 

“It is extremely fast, extremely aggressive, extremely dangerous,” said Scott McLean, a deputy chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “Look how big it got, just in a matter of days.… Look how fast this Mendocino Complex went up in ranking. That doesn’t happen. That just doesn’t happen.”

Drought has ravaged the area over the last few years, which has created ripe conditions for the large-scale wildfires that spread rapidly over a large area. Of the five largest wildfires in California history, five out of the four have occurred since 2012. 

Cal Fire says there are around 18 wildfires currently burning across the state, including the Carr Fire and the recent Cranston fire near Idyllwild. The Carr fire has so far burned 163,207 acres, claimed seven lives and destroyed more than 1,000 structures. That massive fire near Redding is currently only 45 percent contained Cal Fire said in a statement Monday morning. 

On Sunday, President Donald Trump blamed California's environmental laws for the series of raging wildfires. Trump tweeted that "California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean."

Cal Fire officials pushed back against Trump's claim, saying they weren't aware of any water shortages in the current fire zones. UC Merced Professor LeRoy Westerling, who specializes in wildfire and climatology said Trump's comment about water "boggles the mind." 

Westerling told the San Francisco Chronicle that the increasing severity of wildfires is due to the ongoing "warming and accelerated climate change." 

Photos: Getty Images

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