The Slatest

The Mendocino Complex Fire Is Now the Largest in California History

Mendocino Complex fire in California
Firefighters battle the Ranch fire, part of the Mendocino Complex fire, burning near Clearlake Oaks, California, on Sunday.
Noah Berger/Getty Images

A pair of fires tearing through the Lake, Colusa, and Mendocino counties in Northern California, known jointly as the Mendocino Complex fire, became on Monday the largest wildfire ever recorded in California after burning through 283,000 acres in just 11 days.

It topped a record established just eight months ago by the Thomas fire, which consumed roughly 282,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The Thomas fire raged uncontrolled for about five weeks and destroyed about 1,000 homes and buildings.

The Mendocino Complex fire, on the other hand, has mostly burned forested land and only destroyed about 140 structures. But it is moving fast, fed by extreme heat and hazardous winds scouring the brittle dry land. It was only 30 percent contained by Monday night, according to Cal Fire.

The Mendocino Complex fire—actually a combination of the Ranch and River fires that broke out within an hour of each other and just a few miles apart and considered a single fire by officials—is one of a dozen wildfires across the state. The most dangerous in recent days has been the Carr fire in Redding, which destroyed more than 1,000 homes and caused the deaths of seven people. The fire is beginning to slow, however, and was at nearly 50 percent contained Monday night, according to Cal Fire. Some 14,000 firefighters are battling fires around the state, according to the Los Angeles Times, and smoke and triple-digit temperatures are plaguing large sections of the state.

The past year has been a devastating one for California, as thousands of homes were destroyed and more than 40 people killed in wine country in October. The Thomas fire broke out not too long after and was followed in late June by the most recent outbreak of wildfires. Four of the five largest wildfires in California’s modern history have occurred since 2012, according to the Times. It is still the middle of fire season, and the worst fires often break out later in the year.