The Ranch and River Fires began as two separate incidents in Lake County, but they quickly joined together to create the largest fire in California’s history – The Mendocino Complex Fire. Now, officials have announced that the nearly two-month long battle with the fire has now reached 100 percent containment.
The two fires burned a combined 459,123 acres, destroyed 280 structures including 157 residences, killed one firefighter and injured four others.
The Mendocino Complex Fire has wreaked havoc on four counties in Northern California since it began on July 27. It sits atop the list of largest California wildfires by a large margin, with the second biggest being last year’s Thomas Fire in Ventura County at 281,000 acres.
At 100 percent containment, there are still 22 miles of fire line to repair and some fire activity left to monitor. Fire officials’ primary goal now is to reduce erosion and other impacts from suppression activities. Some areas within Mendocino National Forest remain closed out of concern for public safety until December 31.
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.
The past 10 months in California has produced some of the largest and most destructive fires in its recorded history. Four of the top eight most destructive fires (determined by number of structures burned) have all happened since October 2017, including the devastating Carr Fire, which recently burned over 1,600 structures in Shasta County and continues to burn today. The most destructive fire in history, Sonoma’s Tubbs Fire, burned 5,600 structures in October of last year.