Thursday 15 November 2018

California ablaze as wildfire engulfs area the size of LA

Flames leap above a vehicle as the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, burns near Clearlake Oaks, California. Photo: Getty
Flames leap above a vehicle as the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, burns near Clearlake Oaks, California. Photo: Getty

Dan Whitcomb

Thousands of fire crews battling to bring California's biggest ever wildfire under control are now facing soaring temperatures and high winds.

The Mendocino Complex, which has spread to cover 283,000 acres - almost the size of Los Angeles - formed on Monday when two wildfires merged at the southern tip of the Mendocino National Forest.

It is the largest of eight major fires burning out of control across California, prompting a "major disaster" to be declared in the state.

The Mendocino Complex has burnt 75 homes and forced thousands to be evacuated.

Conditions are also about to become worse for the fire crews, with temperatures forecast to reach 43C in Northern California over the next few days, with gusty winds fanning the flame.

The 3,900 crews battling the Mendocino Complex have been focusing on keeping flames from breaking through fire lines on a ridge above the foothill communities of Nice, Lucerne, Glen Haven, and Clearlake Oaks, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire said.

Cabins

Elsewhere in California, evacuations were ordered for cabins in Cleveland National Forest canyons in Orange County on Monday afternoon after a blaze broke out and quickly spread to span 700 acres.

The Carr Fire - which has torched 164,413 acres north of Sacramento since breaking out on July 23 - was said to be 47pc contained.

The Carr Fire has been blamed for seven deaths, including 21-year-old Pacific Gas and Electric Company lineman Jay Ayeta, who was killed in a vehicle crash as he worked with crews in dangerous terrain.

US President Donald Trump weighed in with a tweet in which he claimed: "California wildfires are being magnified and made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilised."

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection would not comment on the tweet but said crews did not lack water to fight the flames.

Environmental activists and some politicians say that the intensity of the state's wildfire season could be linked in part to climate change.

Irish Independent

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