California Wildfires: Desperate Scenes as Residents Fight to Save Homes From Mendocino Complex Fire

Gusting winds, triple digit temperatures and almost zero chance of rain in Northern California pose a persistent threat to firefighters.
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California Wildfires: Desperate Scenes as Residents Fight to Save Homes From Mendocino Complex Fire Noah Berger/AFP

A massive, out-of-control Northern California wildfire called the Mendocino Complex Fire has become the largest in state history, officials said. It has now charred more than 283,000 acres as two wildfires merged at the southern tip of the Mendocino National Forest, and has destroyed at least 75 homes and forced thousands to flee.

And with gusting winds, triple-digit temperatures and almost zero chance of rain in Northern California this week, the scorching weather poses a persistent threat to firefighters battling out-of-control blazes on parched land, officials said.

Some areas in Central and Northern California could see 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) and winds of 15 mile per hour with higher gusts that could fan the flames and spread embers, said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

"Unfortunately, they're not going to get a break anytime soon. It's pretty doggone hot and dry and it's going to stay that way," Hurley said.

The Mendocino is one of 17 major wildfires burning across California, prompting U.S. President Donald Trump to declare a "major disaster" in the state, ordering federal funding to be made available to help recovery efforts.

Another fire, the nearly two-week-old Carr Fire, claimed another life on Saturday, August 4. Twenty-one-year-old apprentice PG&E lineman Jay Ayeta died when his vehicle crashed as he worked with crews in dangerous terrain in Shasta County.

He was the seventh person to die in that blaze, which has scorched more than 160,000 acres in the scenic Shasta-Trinity region north of Sacramento, including two firefighters and two young children and their great-grandmother whose home was overrun by flames.

This year, California wildfires have burned more land earlier in the fire season than usual, Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott said during a news conference.

"Fire season is really just beginning. What seems like we should be in the peak of fire season, historically, is really now the kind of conditions we're seeing really at the beginning," he said.

Through last week, California fires had torched about 290,000 acres (117,300 hectares), more than double the five-year average over that same period, according to Cal Fire.

— Reuters.

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Alex Schenck runs with a bucket while fighting to save his home as the Ranch Fire tears down New Long Valley Road near Clearlake Oaks. Noah Berger/AFP