California’s biggest wildfire on record is continuing to rage, as hot and windy conditions challenged thousands of fire crews battling eight major blazes buring out of control across the state.
On Monday, two wildfires merged at the southern tip of the Mendocino National Forest, creating the largest blaze spanning 283,000 acres and prompting US President Donald Trump to declare a “major disaster” in the state.
The size of the blaze has surpassed that of last year’s Thomas Fire, which burned 281,893 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and destroyed more than 1,000 structures.
The blaze has burned 75 homes and forced thousands to be evacuated from the area.
Temperatures could reach 43C in Northern California over the next few days, with gusty winds fanning the flames of the complex, a National Weather Service meteorologist said.
The 3,900 crews battling the biggest blaze on Monday were focusing on keeping flames from breaking through fire lines on a ridge above the foothill communities of Nice, Lucerne, Glen Haven, and Clearlake Oaks, said Tricia Austin, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire.
Elsewhere in California, evacuations were ordered for cabins in Cleveland National Forest canyons in Orange County on Monday afternoon after a blaze broke out and quickly spread to span 700 acres.
The Carr Fire - which has torched 164,413 acres in the scenic Shasta-Trinity region north of Sacramento since breaking out on July 23 – was 47 percent contained.
The Carr Fire has been blamed for seven deaths, including 21-year-old Pacific Gas and Electric Company lineman Jay Ayeta, who was killed in a vehicle crash as he worked with crews in dangerous terrain on Sunday, the company said.
“California wildfires are being magnified and made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
A California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman declined to comment on Trump’s tweet, but said crews did not lack water to fight the flames.
Environmental activists and some politicians say the intensity of the state’s wildfire season could be linked in part to climate change.