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Under a smoky haze, Larry Wiedey idled Tuesday in a parking lot outside a makeshift shelter at Mountain Vista Middle School in Lake County, where several fire refugees had set up cots and parked their cars.

He’s been camping there for three nights, displaced by what is now the largest fire on record on California. The Mendocino Complex — made up of the Ranch and River fires — continued to burn on both sides of Clear Lake. By Tuesday night, the complex had consumed more than 292,000 acres in 12 days and was 34% contained. Firefighters took advantage of cooler-than-expected temperatures to strengthen containment lines, slowing fire growth significantly.

“No matter where you live, there’s always some form of catastrophe,” said Wiedey, who was camping at the shelter with his wife and their three dogs, Thang, Lucky and Mulderoy. “It is what it is.”

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The smoke creeping up from a steep hillside near this small community 27 miles south of Yosemite Valley was a sure sign a spot fire was burning, hidden beneath the tall pine trees.

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  • Yosemite fire
  • Cleveland National Forest fire
  • Mendocino Complex fire
A firefighter battles the River fire in Lake County.
A firefighter battles the River fire in Lake County. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Californians are being forced to evacuate as wildfires burn around the state. As of Thursday, state officials said more than 13,000 firefighters were battling 16 blazes that have forced more than 32,000 residents to evacuate.

If you’ve been asked to evacuate your home, we want to hear from you: What did you take with you, and why?

 The Ranch fire in Lake County.
The Ranch fire in Lake County. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Firefighters in Northern California were beginning to gain ground Tuesday against a record-breaking wildfire in Lake County, as firefighters across the state continued their battles with 18 blazes that have scorched nearly 600,000 acres.

The Mendocino Complex fire, which became the largest wildfire in California history on Monday night, had burned more than 290,000 acres as of Tuesday morning, officials said. The sprawling blaze, which is actually a combination of the Ranch and River fires in Lake County, has frustrated firefighters as it continues to leap natural and man-made barriers.

Bryant Baker, left, conservation director with Los Padres Forest Watch, and Jim Lowery, a Frazier Park resident, in the Tecuya Ridge area.
Bryant Baker, left, conservation director with Los Padres Forest Watch, and Jim Lowery, a Frazier Park resident, in the Tecuya Ridge area. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Logging has long been among California’s most divisive environmental issues — and the controversy shows little chance of cooling as the Trump administration pushes new efforts to thin forests.

The federal government is moving to allow commercial logging of healthy green pine trees for the first time in decades in the Los Padres National Forest north of Los Angeles, a tactic the U.S. Forest Service says will reduce fire risk. It’s an idea President Trump appeared to endorse in tweets inaccurately linking wildfire to state water management.

“California wildfires are 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,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear stop fire spreading!”

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  • Mendocino Complex fire
The Mendocino Complex fire.
The Mendocino Complex fire. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The Mendocino Complex fire has burned its way into the history books as the biggest fire ever recorded in California.

That is saying something given how destructive the fire year has been in the state.

But that distinction needs to be put in context. The fire, while massive, has destroyed far less property than other recent infernos. The wine country fires last year, while smaller in size, killed more than 40 people and destroyed thousands of homes.