Advertisement
46 posts
  • Mendocino Complex fire
Firefighters monitor a burn operation on top of a ridge near the town of Ladoga, Calif., on Aug. 7.
Firefighters monitor a burn operation on top of a ridge near the town of Ladoga, Calif., on Aug. 7. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The Mendocino Complex fire — the largest wildfire in modern California history — continued to grow overnight into Monday, prompting evacuations in Glenn County.

Officials issued a mandatory evacuation order Sunday night for areas west of County Road 306 to the Lake County line, including the Mendocino National Forest area from the Colusa County line to County Road 308. Portions of Lake, Mendocino and Colusa counties remain under mandatory evacuation, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Ranch and River fires, which make up the Mendocino Complex fire, had burned 398,862 acres as of Monday morning. Firefighters are treating the Ranch and River fires as one event, even though the two fires have not merged.

Advertisement
  • Yosemite fire
  • Cleveland National Forest fire
  • Mendocino Complex fire
  • Redding fire
  • Holy fire
Cattle graze on the grassland near the Ranch fire outside of Lodoga.
Cattle graze on the grassland near the Ranch fire outside of Lodoga. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Wildfires strike California every year. But they're getting worse, causing deaths and uprooting communities. Who's to blame for these increasingly destructive wildfires?

According to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, it's "environmental terrorist groups."

During a radio interview with Breitbart News, Zinke said that "environmental terrorist groups" are preventing the government from managing forests and are largely responsible for the severity of the fires. But fire scientists and forestry experts pointed out that climate change is the main factor behind the problem.

Advertisement
  • Mendocino Complex fire
A firefighter takes a break during a burn operation near the town of Ladoga, Calif., last week.
A firefighter takes a break during a burn operation near the town of Ladoga, Calif., last week. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Each day on the front lines of California’s largest wildfire, firefighters start their shifts noting their safety zones and escape routes. Flames from the Mendocino Complex are still ripping through thousands of acres a day of steep, mountainous terrain packed with dead oak trees — standing and fallen — and littered with leaves and pine needles.

Crews are on especially high alert this week after a firefighter who traveled from Draper City, Utah, to help battle the blaze died Monday while working on an active stretch. Every five or 10 minutes, they’re encouraged to “look up, look around and make a sound.”

Conditions have been ripe for the erratic fire behavior that has led to explosive growth of the Ranch fire, which along with the River fire makes up the 364,145-acre Mendocino Complex. The days are so hot and dry that whatever gains firefighters see overnight when the humidity goes up quickly fade when the sun hits the fuels and sucks the moisture out. Lately, winds have started to pick up about 5 p.m., gusting between 15 mph and 25 mph.

  • Mendocino Complex fire
Firefighters battling the Mendocino Complex blaze monitor a burn operation on top of a ridge near the town of Ladoga on Aug. 7.
Firefighters battling the Mendocino Complex blaze monitor a burn operation on top of a ridge near the town of Ladoga on Aug. 7. (Marcus Yam)

The largest fire in California history continued to grow Wednesday while firefighters worked to protect threatened communities.

As of Wednesday morning, the Ranch fire had consumed 314,925 acres and was 64% contained. It has destroyed 147 homes so far. One firefighter, Matthew Burchett, 42, of Draper City, Utah, has died battling the fire.

The Ranch fire is one of two fires that form the Mendocino Complex fire. Firefighters were still monitoring the smaller of the two, the River fire, which as of Monday was 100% contained.

  • Yosemite fire
Steve Maddison of Holland photographs El Capitan during Yosemite National Park's reopening Aug. 14.
Steve Maddison of Holland photographs El Capitan during Yosemite National Park's reopening Aug. 14. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

As Rob Walker drove into Yosemite, he briefly reconsidered the camping trip he was about to take with a small group of friends and family.

The outing is a tradition. Walker’s family always stays at the North Pines Campground near the Merced River, with Kaleigh Burn and her family.

But on Tuesday, the group had a moment when, impressed by the power of the Ferguson fire, they were unsure.

Advertisement
  • Resources
  • Yosemite fire
  • Cleveland National Forest fire
  • Mendocino Complex fire
  • Redding fire

Mendocino Complex fire (Lake County)

Size: 354,910 acres    Containment: 64%

Evacuations: Lucerne, Clear Lake, Stonyford and Pleasant Valley

Damage: 265 structures have been destroyed, 36 structures have been damaged and another 1,025 structures are threatened.

*As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14.

Read more >>

Carr fire (Redding)

Size: 211,019 acres    Containment:  65%

Evacuations: Whiskeytown Park in Shasta County, and Trinity Dam at Trinity Dam Boulevard in Trinity County.

Damage: 1,599 structures have been destroyed, 282 structures have been damaged and 44 structures are threatened.

Deaths: Eight people have died in connection with the Carr fire. They include a Cal Fire mechanic, four Redding residents, a Redding firefighter, a bulldozer operator and a Pacific Gas & Electric utility worker.

*As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14.

Read more >>

Ferguson fire (Yosemite)

Size: 96,606 acres    Containment:  87%

Closures: Yosemite Valley has reopened to visitors. Wawona and Mariposa Grove have re-opened.

*As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14.

Holy fire (Orange County)

Size:  22,986 acres    Containment:  64%

Evacuations: Evacuations are now lifted for the Mystic Oaks, Glen Eden and Lake Elsinore Riverside communities. They are also lifted for residences beyond the pavement at Avocado Way and Mountain Street in Rice Canyon. Mandatory Evacuations remain in effect for Holy Jim, El Cariso Village, Blue Jay and Falcon campgrounds, Trabuco Canyon recreation residence tracts and Rancho Capistrano.

Damage: Twelve structures have been destroyed.

*As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14

Read more >>

  • Yosemite fire
Scott Gediman, public affairs officer for Yosemite National Park, stands in the Merced River next to Lower Pines camp.
Scott Gediman, public affairs officer for Yosemite National Park, stands in the Merced River next to Lower Pines camp. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Yosemite Valley was reopened for the first time in weeks on Tuesday morning, but some visitors may have been surprised to see a burning hillside along El Portal Road, a key entryway into the famed glacial valley.

Officials at Yosemite National Park had listed the official reopening time as 9 a.m., but a steady stream of light traffic began entering the valley hours earlier.

On Monday evening, helicopter crews worked steadily to stamp out the Ferguson fire as it burned along a hillside near the Merced River. They repeatedly maneuvered their buckets down into the river, avoiding nearby boulders and trees.

Advertisement
A Buddha statue sits outside a burned home in Spring Valley in California's Lake County.
A Buddha statue sits outside a burned home in Spring Valley in California's Lake County. (Getty Images)

Clarence Sibsey sat alone at a table in the Twin Pine Casino evacuation center, tired and dejected.

Once again, a fire was threatening his community and he had to leave home. Two years ago, he fled the massive Valley fire. Now he had been driven away by the Mendocino Complex fire, which at more than 340,000 acres is the biggest in California history.

“We’ve never had fires like this before,” Sibsey said. “Why now?”

  • Resources
Chief Kenneth Bettencourt of the U.S. Service Command animal rescue team looks for pets missing during a fire or other disaster.
Chief Kenneth Bettencourt of the U.S. Service Command animal rescue team looks for pets missing during a fire or other disaster. (K.C. Alfred)

Kenneth Bettencourt used to search for missing people and investigate homicides.

These days, he’s the guy you may call if your dog runs away.

“I’ve always loved animals, and when I retired in ’95, my wife said, ‘You’ve got to find something else to do,’” the former police detective said.