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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?”

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  • 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.

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  • 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 / Los Angeles Time)

A firefighter died Monday battling the largest wildfire in recorded California history, marking the latest fatality in a fire season that has taken a grim toll on first-responders.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Monday evening that it was “deeply saddened” to report the death of a firefighter battling the Mendocino Complex fire.

The firefighter was not named, and authorities said “fact finding on the accident” is underway.

A tunnel view leading to the Yosemite Valley is clouded in smoke from the Ferguson fire.
A tunnel view leading to the Yosemite Valley is clouded in smoke from the Ferguson fire. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Although a break in the weather has provided firefighters a respite from the scorching heat that has complicated the fight against multiple wildfires in California, an alert warning of poor air quality remains in effect for much of the Central Valley, the National Weather Service said.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District warned of poor air quality in Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern counties, the east side of the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada and foothill areas due to smoke from the Ferguson fire.

Air pollution control districts in Mariposa and Tuolumne counties have also issued air quality alerts, which will be in effect until the fire is extinguished. The Ferguson fire has scorched 96,457 acres and is 86% contained. The fire has also claimed the lives of a Cal Fire bulldozer operator and a captain of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots.

People watch as the Holy fire rages on a mountainside in Temescal Valley.
People watch as the Holy fire rages on a mountainside in Temescal Valley. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Mike Milligan had poor reception in the Holy Jim canyons and foothills when his phone buzzed with a confusing text message: “911 call sheriff.”

The sender was a longtime Trabuco Canyon resident named Forrest Gordon Clark, an eccentric figure well-known in the tightknit community as a troublemaker with a temper who had long clashed with his family and neighbors.

Concerned, the chief of the Holy Jim Volunteer Fire Department dialed Clark’s number, but the call failed.

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  • Resources
  • Yosemite fire
  • Cleveland National Forest fire
  • Mendocino Complex fire
  • Redding fire
  • Holy fire
Felipe Montiel fishes at Lake Elsinore as the Holy fire reflects across the water while burning in the Cleveland National Forest.
Felipe Montiel fishes at Lake Elsinore as the Holy fire reflects across the water while burning in the Cleveland National Forest. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Wind-swept wildfires raging. Homes incinerated. Families displaced. Lives lost.

In the long, hot, smoky California summer of 2018, as we camp under ash-hued sunset skies, the scariest thought is that the future has arrived, and more intense weather extremes will continue to wreak havoc in years to come. Not just in summer, but with drought-deluge cycles and higher temperatures even in cooler months.

Last week, an 81-year-old Van Nuys resident told me that sure, summers have always been hot, but lately they seem to have been imported from Palm Springs.

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  • Cleveland National Forest fire
  • Holy fire
A helicopter fighting the Holy fire drops water on flames at along Ortega Highway.
A helicopter fighting the Holy fire drops water on flames at along Ortega Highway. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

It’s been an epic aerial assault that is showing signs of success. By Saturday morning, containment of the Holy fire had jumped from 5% to 29% in less than 24 hours. Flames whipped dangerously close to Lake Elsinore suburban developments, but there has not been a major loss of housing so far.

The hot conditions and unpredictable weather has made it difficult for firefighters to get ahead of the fire. But they have one big advantage: easy access to the water from Lake Elsinore, which they have used for countless drops.

  • Yosemite fire
Scott Gediman, public affairs officer at Yosemite National Park, walks across Stoneman Meadow in the Yosemite Valley.
Scott Gediman, public affairs officer at Yosemite National Park, walks across Stoneman Meadow in the Yosemite Valley. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Yosemite Valley will reopen to visitors at 9 a.m. Tuesday, after being closed for 20 days because of the Ferguson fire. The National Park Service also announced Friday that the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias will reopen at 9 a.m. Monday

Visitors should expect limited hours and services at park facilities as they return to normal operations.