On Monday, the Mendocino Complex fire became California’s biggest wildfire in history, breaking a record that was only set eight months ago. Fire officials have now said that it is expected to burn for the rest of the month, fire officials said on Tuesday.
The Mendocino Complex fire has already spread across over 300,000 acres, nearly the size of Los Angeles.
Firefighters are tackling 18 major blazes across the state amid strong winds and low humidity. The fire comprises two blazes in the north of California, called the Ranch and River fires. They are predicted to continue burning until early September.
Evacuation orders and advisories were lifted early in the day along the Highway 20 corridor including Blue Lakes and Bachelor Valley, which had been threatened for more than a week by the Ranch fire, the larger of the two blazes.
Air quality in Lakeport has been so bad that the city has given out 25-hundred masks in the past three days—and that in a city of approximately 5-thousand. Usually, Lakeport ranks in the top-5 for clean air nationally. #abc7now #MendocinoComplexFire pic.twitter.com/Bu6n4xBk0H
— Wayne Freedman (@WayneFreedman) August 8, 2018
On Tuesday, NASA released an image of the clouds of soot rising over the Mendocino Complex Fire near Ukiah, as well as the Carr, Ferguson and Donnell fires. The images unsettlingly resemble the aftermath of an explosion.
The heat generated by the wildfire has thrown up pyrocumulus and pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which lift smoke above the lowest part of the atmosphere, experts say.
“The hotter a fire burns, the higher up smoke can go, and the farther it can spread,” explained Amber Soja, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center, in a statement.
The fire started on July 27 by unknown causes and initially spread quickly because of what officials said was a perfect combination of weather, rugged topography and abundant brush and timber turned to tinder by years of drought.
The fire is now 47 percent contained, and despite officials initially aiming to extinguish the fire by mid-August, they have now said they will need until next month.
“In my opinion, the term ‘fire season’ is becoming antiquated,” California Fire Division Chief Todd Derum said. “We’re having major fires throughout the year.”