It’s been a tough wildfire season in Northern California as over 555,000 acres (867 square miles) are currently ablaze and thousands of people remain displaced from their homes under mandatory evacuations. In the face of high temperatures and dry climates, the fires have produced massive, fast-moving walls of flames that have destroyed thousands of structures and taken eight lives thus far.
The Carr Fire in Shasta County, Ferguson Fire in Yosemite and Medocino Complex Fire in Mendocino are still burning strong, but firefighters have been able to grow containment over the past week. Currently, the three fires burning account for the largest fire in California’s history (Mendocino Complex), the sixth most destructive fire in California history (Carr Fire) and a blaze that forced the closure of California’s most popular park, Yosemite (Ferguson Fire).
The smoke of the three fires has crippled Northern California. Much of the valley and eastern part of NorCal is choking on smoke, with visibility near non-existent in areas of Lassen, Sacramento, Tahoe and Yosmite:
Firefighters have travelled from all over the world to battle the flames in NorCal. Let’s take a look at the damage caused by each fire and the progress made in containing the blazes:
On Monday, the Mendocino Complex Fire, which accounts for the the nearby Ranch and River Fires in Lake County, became the largest fire in California’s history. The smaller of the two fires, the River Fire, increased to 78 percent containment on Tuesday, while the much bigger Ranch Fire still sits at 20 percent. The combined fires sit at 292,692 acres and are 34 percent contained.
The fire is now in its 13th day, and while containment jumped considerably in recent days and many evacuations have been lifted, the reach of the fire area is staggering. From the western side of the fire in Mendocino County to the eastern side in Colusa County, it’s a 3-hour drive. The fire grew 50,000 acres in just one night on Friday.
The two fires began about an hour apart of each other on July 27th and have grown at a staggering rate, although the rural nature of the area means that the destruction has been relatively minimal, with only 75 homes being destroyed, although another 10,000 remain threatened.
This Northern California wildfire has dominated the national headlines, and rightfully so. As the Carr Fire continues to burn over 172,000 acres in Shasta County, over 1,600 structures have been destroyed and six people have died. It is now the sixth most destructive fire in California history.
As of Wednesday morning, firefighters have made significant progress, raising the containment to 47 percent and essentially pushing the fire away from most populated communities, although some still remain evacuated.
The level of destruction waged by the Carr Fire’s “Firenado” has captured headlines around the world. The heat of the fire created a tornado with 143 mph winds, leveling entire neighborhoods and putting many lives at risk.
As the residents of Redding returns to their destroyed homes to pick up the pieces, the community has rallied, organizing hundreds of fundraisers and providing countless services for those affected by the fire. Although the situation has been tragic, the actions of the community have been nothing short of inspiring.
The Ferguson Fire, which burns in Mariposa County and has closed most of Yosemite Valley, has eluded significant containment since it began on July 13th. Sitting at just over 90,000 acres, the fire has spread into Yosemite National Park and essentially closed the park to most visitors during its peak month.
The fire has now killed 2 people, injured 11, and destroyed 10 structures. On Sunday, firefighter Brian Hughes, 33, was killed when a tree fell on him. He will be remembered at a memorial service in Fresno on Saturday.
With erratic wind patterns hitting the area this past weekend, the fire exploded in size, growing over 10,000 acres since Friday and dropping from 41 percent containment to 35 percent. Amid extremely smoky conditions, areas of Yosemite National Park remain closed and there is no current timeline for reopening.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s “Air Now” website on Friday recorded the Air Quality Index in Yosemite at a staggering 386, or “hazardous.”