On Monday, the twin fires being treated as one incident north of San Francisco became the largest wildfire in state history, destroying 443 square miles (1,148 square kilometers), nearly the size of the city of Los Angeles and 45% greater than New York City.
The Mendocino Complex grew to span 283,000 acres (114,526 hectares) on Monday when two wildfires merged at the southern tip of the Mendocino National Forest, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. The size of the fire has surpassed the previous record set by the Thomas Fire which burned 281,893 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties when it destroyed more than 1,000 structures. It is now the largest of eight major fires burning out of control across California, prompting U.S. President Donald Trump to declare a “major disaster” in the state.
The wildfire about 225 miles (360 kilometers) north of San Francisco started more than two weeks ago by sparks from the steel wheel of a towed-trailer's flat tire. It killed two firefighters and four residents and displaced more than 38,000 people.
And as the record-breaking wildfire continued to grow amid hot and windy conditions, it challenged thousands of fire crews battling eight major blazes burning out of control across the state.
The Mendocino Complex, which is 30% contained, has been less destructive to property than some of the other wildfires in the state - it has so far burned down 75 homes - because it is mostly raging in remote areas. But as AP notes, officials say it threatens 11,300 buildings and some new evacuations were ordered over the weekend as the flames spread.
More than 14,000 firefighters are battling more than a dozen major blazes throughout California, state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean told AP. "I can remember a couple of years ago when we saw 10 to 12,000 firefighters in the states of California, Oregon and Washington and never the 14,000 we see now."
Unfortunately, there is no respite in sight as temperatures could reach 110 degrees (43 Celsius) in Northern California over the next few days with gusty winds fanning the flames of the complex, a National Weather Service meteorologist said.
The 3,900 crews battling the Mendocino Complex on Monday were focusing on keeping flames from breaking through fire lines on a ridge above the foothill communities of Nice, Lucerne, Glen Haven, and Clearlake Oaks, said Tricia Austin, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire.
Elsewhere, the Carr Fire - which has torched 164,413 acres in the scenic Shasta-Trinity region north of Sacramento since breaking out on July 23 - was 47% contained according to Reuters. The Carr Fire has been blamed for seven deaths, including a 21-year-old Pacific Gas and Electric Company lineman Jay Ayeta, whom the company said on Sunday was killed in a vehicle crash as he worked with crews in dangerous terrain.
Even Trump commented on Twitter on the California conflagrations: “California wildfires are being magnified and made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized."
The Northern California fires have created such a haze of smoke in the Central Valley that Sacramento County health officials advised residents to avoid outdoor activities for the entire week.