Mendocino Complex Becomes California’s 6th Largest Wildfire; Deadly Carr Fire Ignited by Flat Tire, Officials Say


More Evacuations From California Wildfires
  • The Mendocino Complex Fire in northern California has scorched 357 square miles, making it the 6th largest ever in the state.
  • The pair of fires comprising the Mendocino Complex has destroyed at least 55 homes, 47 other structures and threatens 12,300 buildings
  • Near Redding, more than 1,550 buildings have been destroyed by deadly Carr Fire, and 1,350 more are threatened.
  • The fire is now twice the size of Sacramento, and is the sixth most destructive wildfire in state history.

A pair of fires in northern California known as the Mendocino Complex has burned 357 square miles, becoming the sixth largest wildfire in California history.

The fires have prompted new evacuations in Lake and Mendocino counties amid fears that hot, windy and dry weather conditions could fan the flames.

“This is a particularly dangerous situation with extremely low humidity and high winds. New fires will grow rapidly out of control, in some cases people may not be able to evacuate safely in time should a fire approach,” the weather service said in its bulletin for the Mendocino area north of San Francisco.

The Mendocino Complex is comprised of the so-called Ranch Fire in Mendocino County, which has burned 283 square miles and was 22 percent contained as of Saturday night. It’s twin, the River Fire, has burned nearly 74 square miles and was 50 percent contained. Combined, the Mendocino Complex now far surpasses the size of the deadly Carr Fire burning near Redding, California, and has burned an area larger than New York City.

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 again Thursday as the fire grew and threatened new residential areas.

The Mendocino Complex has destroyed at least 55 homes, 49 other structures and threatens 15,300 buildings, Cal Fire reports. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation. 

Deadly Carr Fire Started by Flat Tire

A massive wildfire that has killed six people west of Redding, some 150 miles north of Sacramento, was sparked by a flat tire, officials say.

A tire reportedly blew on a tractor-trailer, which caused a spark when the rim of the tire struck the asphalt, CNN reports.

From that spark, the so-called Carr Fire claimed the lives of six people and destroyed more than 1,500 structures, 1,000 of which were homes. It’s now the sixth most destructive wildfire in state history, according to Cal Fire records. It’s also the 13th-deadliest and 18th-largest wildfire the Golden State has seen since records began.

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

As the wildfire continues to torch entire square miles of land, burning through tinder-dry vegetation in sweltering heat and windy conditions, some residents were allowed to return to the remains of their burned homes to survey the damage on Thursday.

“I’m waiting to probably break down any minute here. Pretty overwhelming,” Carol Smith, who stood on the sidewalk with her family near her destroyed home, in disbelief as she spoke to the Associated Press. “We pretty much lost everything.”

While Smith and her family were allowed to return to the site where their home once stood, tens of thousands remain under evacuation orders, as the situation remains too dangerous for residents to go home.

More than 35,000 residents were displaced as 226 square miles burned – an area twice the size of Sacramento.

It looked like an atomic bomb went off,” Redding resident Josh Lister, who lost his home to the blaze, told

The Carr Fire was 41 percent contained as of Saturday evening, according to Cal Fire. The inferno, which still threatens some 1,350 structures, claimed the lives of two firefighters and four civilians. On Tuesday, Australia and New Zealand announced they will send 146 firefighters and fire managers to the United States to assist crews, the AP reported.

On Saturday, California Gov. Jerry Brown toured the region and called on President Donald Trump to help the state deal with the wildfires.

Brown said he is hopeful Trump will issue a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration, which will provide federal programs including unemployment assistance, food aid and legal and mental health counseling for fire victims.

The declaration will also make counties and cities eligible for federal financial assistance.

Ferguson Fire

Another wildfire, known as the Ferguson Fire, has burned more than 114 square miles near Yosemite National Park. Two people have died in that fire, which is 41 percent contained.

Summer camps near Yosemite National Park evacuated Tuesday. The park, a portion of which has been closed since last week, will not reopen until Sunday at the earliest, officials said.

The northern third of the park remains open. but it is still the most extensive closure since 1997 when flooding closed the park for two months. 

We’ve had 17 fires before,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection battalion chief and information officer Jonathan Cox told the Los Angeles Times. “But these are impacting communities – and they’re large fires, not small.”

With much of Yosemite’s highlights off-limits, other nearby National Parks are getting a surge of visitors.

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A horse barn burns as the River Fire moves through the area on July 31, 2018 in Lakeport, California. The River Fire has burned over 27,000 acres, destroyed seven homes and stands at only eight percent contained. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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