A combination of wildfires raging north of San Francisco, which already has consumed an area almost as big as Los Angeles, is on pace to become the largest in California history, fire officials said.
The Mendocino Complex fire, which includes two blazes along the Mendocino National Forest, had chewed through more than 273,600 acres as of Monday morning, and is now the second-largest ever recorded in the state. Just 30 percent of the blaze is contained, Cal Fire’s Mendocino unit said.
Last year’s Thomas fire, which consumed 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, remains the state’s largest on record. The Cedar fire in 2003, now the third-largest, devoured 273,246 acres in San Diego County, according to Cal Fire records. The city of Los Angeles, by comparison, is about 300,000 acres.
Firefighters predict they’ll fully contain the Mendocino Complex fire by Aug. 15.
Elsewhere across the state, firefighters are working to put out more than a dozen other fires that have killed several people, ravaged thousands of acres, and sparked air quality alerts.
The deadly Carr Fire, burning north of Mendocino in and around the city of Redding, claimed its seventh fatality, a Pacific Gas & Electric worker, on Saturday. That follows the deaths of two firefighters and four civilians.
As of Monday, the Carr Fire had consumed 163,207 acres and was 45 percent contained. It was listed as the sixth most-destructive in state history, having destroyed more than 1,600 structures, according to Cal Fire. The Mendocino Complex fire, though nearly twice as large, had destroyed 75 residences and damaged 12.
Ken Pimlott, Cal Fire director, warned on Saturday that “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,” Pimlott said at a news conference.
Cal Fire online records show a growing number of wildfires in recent years.
Through July 29, the agency said it responded to 3,770 fires across 292,455 acres. That’s higher than the five-year average for the same seven-month period ― 3,405 fires over 118,811 acres. In 2017, there were 3,440 fires across 219,369 acres during the period.
Nationally, wildfires have burned about 5.1 million acres this year, about 1.1 million acres above the 10-year average for the seven-month period, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
President Donald Trump on Sunday approved California Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) request for a major disaster declaration, which makes additional federal funding available for fire response and provides assistance to evacuees in Shasta County. Brown has called the wildfires “the new normal.”
Trump, in a tweet on Sunday evening, blamed the intensifying fires on “bad environmental laws” that he said divert water resources into the Pacific Ocean. He also encouraged the clearing of trees to stop the fires from spreading.
Cal Fire Division Chief Chris Anthony, who has been working on the Carr Fire since late last month, stressed the impact that changes to the environment and climate have caused.
“It is hard to find the right words to describe how explosive conditions are throughout the state,” Anthony told HuffPost on Monday. “It is clear to me that firefighters are on the front lines of climate change.”
Chris D’Angelo contributed reporting.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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