Mendocino Complex Becomes California's Largest Wildfire

Aug 6, 2018

Cal Fire map of both the Ranch and River fires within the Mendocino Complex.
Credit Cal Fire Mendocino Unit

**Update Wednesday 6:50 PM: Fire has grown to 300,086 acres  with 47% containment. 116 residences have been destroyed.

**Update Tuesday morning: Numbers released today reveal that the Mendocino Complex fires have grown to 290,692 acres and containment has increased to 34 percent. 

**Update: Cal Fire reports that both the Ranch and River Fires have collectively become the largest wildfire recorded in California as the fires burned 283,800 acres by Monday night. It remains at 30 percent containment. 

Cal Fire's Charlie Blankenheim said firefighters mad some progress and were able to open up Highway 20 and Highway 29 on Monday. Blankenheim said there was more progress on some parts of the River Fire. 

"We had a lot of success, still have a lot of challenges but had a lot of success yesterday. Let's start down on the River Fire where we've been looking real good on the whole southern side. We've really been struggling on this piece up on Cow Mountain. It's very difficult terrain, very steep drainages with lots of brush and grass," Blankeheim said. 

Their  Monday night update is below: 

According to Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service, the following areas were reduced to an Evacuation Advisory and people may return to their homes: Southern Scotts Valley Road area; north of the Scotts Valley Road/Hill Road intersection, east of the South Cow Mountain Recreation area, west of SR 29, and south of the north Hendricks Road/Scotts Valley Road intersection. This includes Scotts Valley Raod from Hill Road to Hendricks Road, Hendricks Road, Dessie Drive, Eickhoff Road and Pear View Road. 

There are still active Evacuation Orders in four counties which include Mendocino, Lake, Colusa and Glenn. Those areas are listed below: 

Mendocino County
- South of the Eel River, east of the Eel River Road, east of the East Side Potter Valley Road, East of Potter Valley Road to SR 20, north of SR 20, west of the Mendocino Lake County Line
- East Ukiah Valley Area (south of SR-20, east of the east side of Lake Mendocino and east of the Russian River, north of Yokayo Rancheria Road, and west of the intersection of North Cow Mountain Road and Cow Mountain Access Road) 

Lake County

South of the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff Road, west of Clear Lake, north of 11th Street, and east of the Lake-Mendocino County Line.

Western Colusa County 
- East of the Lake-Colusa County Line (Bartlett Springs Road/Brim Road) to Leesville-Lodoga Road, north to Lodoga, west to the National Forest boundary, North along the National Forest boundary to the Colusa-Glenn County Line, and west to the Colusa-Lake County Line. 

Glenn County
- North of the Glenn County/Colusa County Line, west of County Road 306, south of County Road 308, east of the Mendocino National Forest Boundary.

 

Previously, Cal Fire reported that the Mendocino Complex fires, had grown to over 273,664 acres and was 30 percent contained. This made the wildfire the second largest fire in California's history, just under the Thomas Fire which happened last December in 2017. 

Two deaths were reported, but there have been no reported civilian or firefighter injuries in the Mendocino Complex. However, the fires have destroyed 75 residences and 68 other structures and damaged 12 residences and 14 other structures. Over 9,000 structures remain threatened. Officials expect full containment by August 15th, but both fires, according to the latest Cal Fire incident report, have slightly different fire activity.

Northcoast Senator Mike McGuire weighed in on the impact of the Mendocino Complex this moring via Twitter and said the wildfire has the potential to become the largest in California history. 

Incident report photo of the Mendocnio Complex.
Credit Cal Fire

The River Fire had limited movement overnight, and a burnout operation was conducted on the Northern portion of the fire which ultimately improved containment. Firefighters plan to look at burning out and tying in containment lines for the River Fire today. The Ranch Fire grew in both north and south eastern directions and is further threatened communities. Rough terrain on the Northern quarter of the Ranch Fire has made it challenging to access the fire front directly. Crews will be on the ground in communities threatened by the fire to provide structure protection. Those areas, according to the incident report include State Route 20, Old Lake County State Route, Blue Lakes, and areas north east of Ukiah. A full detailed list of evacuations and centers is on the incident report link. With increased containment on the River Fire, Cal Fire will mobilize other resources to help with the Ranch Fire. 

Unit Chief Shana Jones with Cal Fire stressed the importance of safety when it comes to navigating through the fire under evacuation orders. She stated that the Mendocino Complex was fast moving and that it takes a lot of resources, including both local and out of state, to coordinate evacuation and containment efforts. 

"All of our number one priority is to make sure that you all get home safetly, in the most expeditious fashion. But it has to be in a coordinated manor," Jones said while also emphasizing that Cal Fire was working really hard to make that happen. 

Cal Fire's Sunday meeting on the Mendocino Complex that took place in Lake County is below. 

Previously, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that this year's devastating fire season was the new normal. In a report by NPR, Brown states that Californians were in for a really rough ride. 

"It's going to get expensive, it's going to get dangerous, and we have to apply all our creativity to make the best of what is going to be an increasingly bad situation," Brown said.

However, in Lake County officials argue that they don't want people to think this is the new normal and that together with Cal Fire and others, they're working to keep residents safe. Chairman of the Lake County Board of Supervisors Jim Steele spoke at the Cal Fire update on Sunday night. He mentioned that this region in particular had a lot of fire history, stemming from previous fires in 2014 and 2015. 

"We all know that the new normal is not going to be the normal of the future. The future's going to be safer because we  know how to handle these things and we're going to make a safer forest so that we don't make the mistakes of the past," Steele said. 

The cause of both fires in the Mendocino Complex has not been determined but is under investigation.