Still raging: Largest wildfire in California history grows


LAKEPORT, Calif. (AP) — Wildfires tearing through trees and brush, rampaging up hillsides and incinerating neighborhoods: The places and names change, but the devastation is showing signs of becoming the new normal in California.

Twin fires in Northern California being treated as one are the largest wildfire in state history and by early today had scorched 455 square miles – nearly the size of the city of Los Angeles.

The Mendocino Complex fire north of San Francisco was still growing this week as it broke the record set eight months ago. In December, the Thomas Fire killed two people, burned 440 square miles and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in Southern California.

The Mendocino Complex, which is 34 percent contained, has been less destructive to property than some of the other wildfires in the state because it is mostly raging in remote areas. But officials say it threatens 11,300 buildings and some new evacuations were ordered over the weekend as the flames spread.

Hotter weather attributed to climate change is drying out vegetation, creating more intense fires that spread quickly from rural areas to city subdivisions, climate and fire experts say. But they also blame cities and towns that are expanding housing into previously undeveloped areas.

More than 14,000 firefighters are battling more than a dozen major blazes throughout California, state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean said.

"I can remember a couple of years ago when we saw 10,000 to 12,000 firefighters in the states of California, Oregon and Washington and never the 14,000 we see now," he said.

Crews made progress over the weekend against one of the two blazes in the Mendocino Complex with help from water-dropping aircraft, Cal Fire operations chief Charlie Blankenheim said in a video on Facebook.

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