Record-breaking California fire may take until September to contain

Posted at 9:30 AM, Aug 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-08 11:30:57-04

It may take until September to contain the largest fire in California history, which is now nearly the size of Los Angeles.

So far, two firefighters have been injured while fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire, which consists of the Ranch and River fires — in Northern California. The two have burned 300,086 acres and was 47% contained as of Wednesday morning.

The colossal fire altogether has destroyed 116 residences, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.

Cal Fire estimated that full containment could take until September 1. The Mendocino Complex Fire ignited on July 27.

Last year’s Thomas Fire, which is the second-largest fire in California history, took more than six months to extinguish after burning 281,893 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Firefighters in the state are currently battling 17 large fires.

Trump weighs in on wildfires

This week, President Donald Trump appeared to blame California’s environmental protection laws for the cataclysmic fires. Administration officials declined to offer any clarity on Trump’s series of tweets.

Trump claimed that the fires were being "made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized." He also added that water in the state was "being diverted into the Pacific Ocean" in a tweet that named California Gov. Jerry Brown.

"This does not merit a response," said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the Democratic governor.

What’s fueling fires?

Environmental scientists, California water experts and local officials have disputed Trump’s claims.

"It is climate change that is causing this," said Michael Mohler, spokesman for Cal Fire. "There is no other way to explain explosive fuel conditions that come with increased winds and higher temperatures."

California’s multiyear drought ended last year, but it left a lot of dried and weakened plants and trees.

"You don’t recover from six years of drought overnight," Mohler said.

California has about more than 100 million dead trees due to drought and infestation from bark beetles. Dead trees pose a major hazard as they allow wildfires to spread rapidly in hot, dry conditions. Cal Fire’s vegetation management crews are out year-round to thin and remove such trees while also doing prescribed burns.

Experts cite hotter temperatures causing lengthier fire seasons that burn up dry, dead vegetation as factors for more wildfires.

Other fires in the state continue

Cal Fire reported that warm temperatures, with highs in the 90s and triple digits, are expected in most areas of the state — which isn’t good news for firefighters. But a slight cooling is forecast for the weekend.

More than 14,000 firefighters are battling the wildfires across the state.

The second biggest fire is the Carr Fire in Shasta County in the northern part of the state.

The deadly blaze has been burning for more than two weeks and consumed 172,055 acres as of Tuesday evening. It has killed seven people and destroyed more than 1,100 homes.

The next largest one is the Ferguson Fire, near Yosemite National Park, with 94,992 acres. That fire has lasted more than three weeks and killed two people.

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