In early July, firefighters were battling two large blazes in Northern California and forecasters were warning of record heat and gusty winds that could stir up more trouble. Then the Holiday fire hit Santa Barbara County, destroying homes and forcing evacuations. In the middle of the month, the Ferguson fire west of Yosemite National Park doubled in size in one night, forcing crews to scramble to set up defenses. Then came the Cranston fire south of Idyllwild and the deadly Carr fire in Redding. By the end of July, wildfires across the state had killed eight people and scorched 200,000 acres.
As August began, the Mendocino Complex fire north of San Francisco exploded to 290,000 acres, making it the largest fire on record in California. Prolonged drought and extreme heat have made California ripe for dangerous fire conditions in recent months and years. Of the five largest wildfires in state history, four have occurred since 2012.