Mendocino Complex Fire explodes to 2nd largest blaze in California history

The Mendocino Complex Fire has charred more than 273,000 acres, making it the second largest blaze in California’s history. Firefighters will continue to face local gusty winds and building heat this week.

To put this in perspective, the massive blaze is burning an area larger than New York City.

As AccuWeather predicted, hot and dry weather allowed the Mendocino Complex Fire to spread rapidly this past weekend, which resulted in mandatory evacuations for portions of Colusa County, California, on Saturday evening. Over 20,000 people have now been evacuated from Colusa, Lake and Mendocino counties.

The Mendocino Complex fire is comprised of the Ranch and River fires. Together, these comprise the second largest California wildfire on record in terms of acreage burned. A total of 9,200 structures are being threatened, while 130 have been destroyed.

Heat and poor relatively humidity will continue to plague firefighters battling this complex fire each afternoon and evening into early this week.

Static Sundowner Winds Monday Night

Farther south in California, stronger Sundowner winds are also anticipated to develop and significantly increase the fire danger around Santa Barbara. These winds are anticipated Monday night when there can be gusts to 45 mph.

“These winds tend to flow from north to south from Santa Barbara County to Los Angeles County in the mountains and through the north-south passes,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun said “The winds typically ramp up in the evening and last into the nighttime hours, hence the name ‘Sundowner winds’.”

A similar set up rapidly spread the Holiday Fire in early July.

Residents who have not been forced to evacuate but living in the vicinity of the fires should closely monitor alerts from government officials and be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

The shifting blazes can further put the lives of firefighters at risk. Smoke may also be spread farther away from the fires than in recent days, creating dangerously poor air quality conditions throughout the western U.S.

Fire aftermath Aug 4

A resident, in yellow, wishing not to be identified, is comforted after seeing her fire-ravaged home for the first time Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Redding, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

As windy conditions become more localized, attention will turn toward dangerous heat set to build back across the West this week.

Early this week, temperatures are expected to soar well into the 90s in Downtown Los Angeles. A high near 85 F is more common this time of year.

The neighboring valleys can anticipate triple-digit heat, while the deserts from Palm Springs, California, to Phoenix, Arizona, will endure highs in the 110s. Temperatures in a few locations along the Colorado River can approach or crack the 120-degree mark.

SW heat Aug 5

Temperatures will also climb farther north across the West this week. Tuesday and Wednesday, widespread highs in the 100s are expected from Sacramento and Redding, California, to Reno, Nevada; Medford and Pendleton, Oregon; and Boise, Idaho.

Multiple days of highs in the 90s are once again anticipated for Portland, Oregon, and Seattle this week before cooler air may return by next weekend.

The heat will further feed the ongoing blazes. Residents and firefighters will once again have to take the necessary precautions to protect against heat exhaustion and stroke.

West heat Aug 5

“Rapidly-rising air caused by the extreme heat helps the fire to grow explosively as the fire will create its own wind, as well as fire vortices (firenadoes) and tree crowning (when the leaves get engulfed by flames), even on otherwise calm days,” AccuWeather Meteorologist and volunteer firefighter Evan Duffey said.

On Thursday, July 26, the Carr Fire produced a fire whirl that caused damage equal to that of an EF 3 tornado with winds in excess of 143 mph.

Latest on the other ongoing destructive blazes

The Carr Fire has destroyed over 1,000 residential structures with more than 1,200 structures still threatened. Seven people have died in the fire, including two firefighters. The blaze has charred more than 160,000 acres and is 43 percent contained.

The Carr Fire is currently the sixth-most destructive wildfire, in terms of structures burned, in California’s history and the 13th deadliest on record in state.

Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Robert Manning III said two hundred active-duty soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, will join western firefighting lines as early as Aug. 13.

wildfires graphic

Yosemite National Park announced that Yosemite Valley is among the areas of the park that will remain closed through Sunday due to continued unhealthy smoke impacts and ongoing firefighting operations as crews work to extinguish the Ferguson Fire.

According to the National Park Service, parts of Yosemite National Park will be closed “indefinitely” due to ongoing wildfires in and around the scenic valley.

The closures include Yosemite Valley, Wawona Road, El Portal Road, Big Oak Flat Road, Glacier Point, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, Wawona Campground, Crane Flat Campground and Tamarack Campground.

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That blaze has burned nearly 90,000 acres and is 35 percent contained. Two firefighters have died while battling the fire.

Anyone planning to visit Grand Canyon National Park will also face side effects of local wildfire activity.

The Obi Fire, which started on July 21 and now encompasses over 2,500 acres, has spread toward the park in recent days. This has lead to planned closures of several roads and hiking trails as firefighters work to contain the blaze this week.

Stay updated on the latest fire news with AccuWeather. Download the free AccuWeather app to stay aware of fire-related advisories as well as the risk for any potential thunderstorms.

How hot do you think it’ll get? Make your prediction and play Forecaster Challenge.

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