The initial investigation of the largest fire in California’s history has been completed and it proves the impossibility of limiting ignitions in high-risk fire zones.
CalFire announced on Thursday that the Ranch Fire, otherwise known as the Mendocino Complex Fire, was started with a spark when a property owner was hammering a metal stake in Potter Valley. The fire eventually burned 459,123 acres, destroyed 280 structures including 157 residences, killed one firefighter and injured four others.
One simple spark, combined with extremely dry conditions and high winds, caused the historic fire to burn over Mendocino, Colusa, Glenn and Lake counties. And CalFire said the man who caused the spark was not to blame.
“This was a complete accident,” said Cal Fire deputy director Michael Mohler. “It has happened before. It just shows how receptive these fuel beds are.”
Lake County has become the epicenter of wildfires in the United States. Since 2012, 53 percent of the county has burned which includes 475,000 acres in 2018. Earlier this year, the Pawnee Fire burned through 15,000 acres, destroying 22 structures and evacuating multiple communities. Many of those same communities were evacuated just over a month later for the Mendocino Complex Fire, which burned all the way to the charred areas of the Pawnee Fire.
Just two years ago, the Clayton Fire blazed through the Lower Lake area, burning 4,000 acres and destroying 300 structures, including a 150-year-old church and a Habitat for Humanity office. In 2015, three fires burned the area including the Valley Fire, which destroyed more than 1,300 homes and killed at least four people.