Twin wildfires in California, known as the Mendocino Complex Fire, have doubled in size over the last three days to become the largest active wildfire in state history, officials said yesterday. The fires have spread rapidly in recent days to burn 283,800 acres of land – an area almost the size of Los Angeles.
Officials say the Mendocino Complex Fire, which is made up of two nearby fires being treated as the same incident, has surpassed last year’s Thomas Fire (281,893-acres) to become the largest in state history. More than 14,000 firefighters and hundreds of US army personnel are trying to contain the 16 major blazes across the state amid hot weather, strong winds and low humidity. National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Hurley has warned conditions are not going to immediately improve – with temperatures as high as 43C (110F) being forecast for some areas.
Scott McLean, a deputy chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) described the wildfires as “extremely fast, extremely aggressive, extremely dangerous. Look how big it got, just in a matter of days… Look how fast this Mendocino Complex went up in ranking. That doesn’t happen. That just doesn’t happen.”
It is only 30% contained so far, with authorities warning it could take another week to get the blaze under control. Experts say 2018 has the worst start to the fire season in 10 years – partly due to the 2012-2017 drought that killed off large amounts of vegetation. At least seven people have been killed in the Carr fire in the state’s north.