State of Emergency Declared for Southern California's Holy Fire; Infernos Grow in Northern California

August 9, 2018

Firefighters say they have made good progress battling California's largest-ever wildfire but they don't expect to have it fully under control until September.

The Mendocino Complex Fire, north of San Francisco, has grown to the size of Los Angeles since it started two weeks ago. More than 475 square miles have burned, and the fire is 51 percent contained. 

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox told the Associated Press the area has few natural barriers to slow flames and terrain that firefighters can't get to. So firefighters fall back to the nearest road, ridge or river, where they bulldoze a wide line and wait for the flames to come to them.

The Mendocino Complex is one of 18 burning throughout the state.

(MORE: Climate Change Is to Blame for the California Fires. So Are Humans.)

Fire officials on Thursday confirmed another death in the so-called Carr Fire that destroyed more than 1,000 homes in just a few days' time.

Andrew Brake, 40, died in a single-car accident on his way to work on the fire as a heavy equipment mechanic. He was a six-year Cal Fire veteran. 

He became the eighth person to be killed by the Carr Fire, which has burned for more than two weeks in and around Redding, California.

The Carr Fire is now the sixth most destructive wildfire in state history, according to Cal Fire records. It's also the 13th-deadliest and 11th-largest wildfire the Golden State has seen since records began.

The wildfire has destroyed nearly 1,600 structures, 1,077 of which are homes. More than 500 structures are still threatened by the blaze.

The inferno reportedly started when a tire blew on a tractor-trailer, which caused a spark as the rim of the tire struck the asphalt, CNN said.

The inferno was 48 percent contained as of Thursday, according to Cal Fire. It has burned at least 277 square miles of land, an area larger than the city of Chicago. More than 38,000 people were forced to evacuate because of the fire, the AP reported.

Arson Arrest Made in Holy Fire

Nearly 20,500 people are under mandatory evacuation orders in parts of Riverside and Orange counties as the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest continued to spread.

The fire, which started on Monday, has grown to about 16 square miles and is 5 percent contained.

On Wednesday, officials announced that Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, had been arrested and accused of arson in connection with the fire.

Mendocino Complex Fire Continues its March

The Mendocino Complex Fire, which has torched land in Mendocino, Colusa and Lake counties, has destroyed at least 119 homes, 110 other structures and threatens 9,200 buildings, Cal Fire said. It is 51 percent contained.

Monday, night, the fire's size surpassed last December's Thomas Fire, which burned more than 440 square miles in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, claiming more than 1,000 structures and one life.

(MORE: Six of California's 10 Most Destructive Fires Have Occurred in the Last 10 Months)

Nearly 20,000 people were ordered to evacuate in Lake and Mendocino counties as the blazes encroached on several towns surrounding Clear Lake. Evacuations were expanded in neighboring Glenn and Colusa counties, including an area just east of the boundary of Mendocino National Forest.

Authorities are investigating what caused the fires.

Ferguson Fire Keeps Parts of Yosemite Closed

Another wildfire, known as the Ferguson Fire, has burned at least 148 square miles near Yosemite National Park as of Thursday. Two people have died in that fire, which is 79 percent contained.

A portion of the national park, which has been closed since last week, is expected to remain closed indefinitely.

"Park administrators and fire managers have made the decision to extend the current park closures indefinitely," said the National Park Service in a statement obtained by the AP. "Fire managers are continuously assessing conditions in the area and will work directly with and will immediately advise park managers as conditions change and it becomes safe to reopen."

The northern third of the park remains open, but it is still the most extensive closure since 1997, when flooding forced a two-month closure.

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