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Just two days after President Trump issued an utterly uninformed tweet about the causes of the California wildfires, his ulterior motives began to come into focus.

That happened through an order issued Wednesday by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to the National Marine Fisheries Service and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Both fall under Ross’ jurisdiction.

The order directs the agencies to “facilitate access to the water needed to fight the ongoing wildfires affecting the State of California.” It then gives the game away by making specific reference to the federal Endangered Species Act: “Consistent with the emergency consultation provisions under the ESA, Federal agencies may use any water as necessary to protect life and property in the affected areas,” the order says.

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  • Mendocino Complex fire

The Mendocino Complex fire is California’s largest wildfire on record, covering about 300,000 acres. It’s located around Clear Lake in Northern California and has mostly burned in wooded areas in hilly terrain.

But what does 300,000 acres look like? We mapped the fire over L.A. and New York to find out.

If it were in L.A., the fire’s perimeter would stretch from LAX to Pomona.

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A man suspected of starting the Holy fire in Orange County has been arrested, Cleveland National Forest officials announced Wedesday.

  • Mendocino Complex fire

Overnight the Mendocino Complex fire — made up of the Ranch and River fires — grew to over 300,000 acres, or about 469 square miles, according to Cal Fire.

About 15,000 people live in Clearlake, southeast of the fires. Another 4,700 people live in Lakeport. 

  • Resources

California had 18 active fires Wednesday morning.

The largest is the Mendocino Complex, which is made up of the Ranch and River fires. This week, it became the largest fire on record in California’s history. It has burned more than 300,000 acres.

By Wednesday morning, the fire was 47% contained.

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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.

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.

  • Resources
  • 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?

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 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!”