Cal Fire: Mendocino Complex fires gain 44,000 acres Friday

Bulldozer operators and their machines build containment lines while battling the River fire in Lakeport California
NOAH BERGER AP Bulldozer operators and their machines build containment lines while battling the River fire in Lakeport California on July 31
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05 August, 2018

- Thousands of firefighters were struggling on August 2 to contain two vast wildfires in California, one of which has become one of the most destructive blazes in the state's history.

The Mendocino Complex Fire is now the state's largest fire at more than two-thirds the size of sprawling Los Angeles, and has forced the evacuation of almost 16,000 residents and destroyed more than 100 structures.

The National Park Service said Yosemite Valley is not threatened by the fire as of Friday at noon.

A firefighter tries to control a back burn as the Carr fire continues to spread towards the towns of Douglas City and Lewiston near Redding, California on July 31, 2018.

Fanned by erratic winds in fuel-choked, tinder-dry forests and scrub, the California blazes have torched 468,467 acres (189,580 hectares) so far this year, destroyed 1,823 homes and structures, and killed at least eight people. Access and weather conditions challenge responders' ability to directly fight fires, and visibility conditions from smoke dictate where aircraft support can be deployed, the update said.

Both areas remained under a "red flag warning" issued by the National Weather Service for strong winds, low relative humidity and temperatures topping 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), all conditions that can drive the growth of wildfires.

The Carr Fire is 39-percent contained, but firefighters are widening fire breaks to prevent winds from causing it to flare up again.

The Carr Fire spawned a "fire whirl" of flames and winds in excess of 143 miles per hour (230 kph) on July 26 that had the strength of a severe tornado and uprooted trees and toppled power lines, according to a tweet by the National Weather Service.

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Dykema said the whirl uprooted trees and tore roofs from home.

As of Friday morning, CalFire reported that the Ranch Fire was at 112,226 acres and 28 percent containment and the River Fire at 41,512 acres and 50 percent containment.

Yosemite Valley residents must leave the valley by noon Friday, National Park Service officials said. Fire officials said another 8,000 homes and other buildings were threatened - down from about 12,000 homes initially threatened as firefighters made progress in some areas even as the blaze expanded in others.

Braden Varney, 36, was working alone overnight July 14 fighting the wildfire while his assistant went to get a new hydraulic hose.

Some evacuations were lifted Friday in an area near Redding, where armies of firefighters and fleets of aircraft have been battling an huge blaze about 100 miles south of the OR line.

Varney was a 10-year veteran.

The Redding fire has grown to 206 square miles (533-square-kilometer) and has destroyed 1,060 homes and many other structures.


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