Fire whirl brings critical conditions in Northern California

The fire near Covelo prompted evacuation orders for about 60 homes in the farming and ranching area on the edge of the Mendocino National Forest.

The Carr Fire is 39-percent contained, but firefighters are widening fire breaks to prevent winds from causing it to flare up again.

Tens of thousands of people remain under evacuation orders.

Firefighting costs have more than tripled from $242 million in the 2013 fiscal year to $773 million in the 2018 fiscal year that ended June 30, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire.

The Mendocino Complex Fire The Mendocino Complex Fire is now the state's largest fire at more than two-thirds the size of sprawling Los Angeles and has forced the evacuation of almost 16,000 residents and destroyed more than 100 structures.

Redding is 220 miles (354 kilometers) north of San Francisco. Firefighters were having some success keeping flames away from heavily populated areas, and officials began allowing some residents to return to their neighborhoods.

The insurance and reinsurance industry loss from the Carr wildfire in Shasta County, California, is anticipated to at least approach and possibly surpass $1 billion, as the destruction continues with now more than 1,550 structures completely destroyed and another 258 damaged by the fire. The Ranch Fire moved into sparsely populated areas, but the River Fire ran through an area with scattered ranches northwest of Lakeport, California.

The fire burned slowly for days before winds suddenly whipped it up last week and drove it furiously through brush and timber.

National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said Friday that the blaze still burning near Redding created a fire whirl that uprooted trees and tore roofs from homes.

California fire officials said Saturday that the two fires about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of San Francisco were 27 percent contained and have grown to nearly 250 square miles (648 kilometers).

The fire has reached into remote areas of the country's third-oldest national park. The Ferguson Fire burning near Yosemite National Park has burned 80,755 acres (126 square miles) and is 36 percent contained on Saturday.

Access to Yosemite Valley is closed through Sunday due to fire operations, the NPS said.

"We do have lines built above the towns of Nice and Lucerne and down around Clearlake Oaks and coming back in and tying into Long Valley", said a Cal Fire official.

By abstaining from controlled burns year after year, unchecked growth has multiplied, dried out and created a tinderbox. Then came the Cranston fire south of Idyllwild and the deadly Carr fire in Redding.

"We're in uncharted territory", the governor said.

Lake and Mendocino's Ranch and River fires grew overnight by more than 10,000 acres, scorching a total of 92,000 acres, according to Cal Fire early Wednesday.

Those figures, along with the fact that large fires are starting earlier in the year, has state officials anxious.

  • Joey Payne