The Mendocino Complex Fire Has Now Spawned the Biggest Single Blaze in California History

Firefighters battle the Mendocino Complex Fire.
Firefighters battle the Mendocino Complex Fire.
Photo: Getty

The Mendocino Complex Fire just keeps setting records. Last week, the combination of the Ranch and River fires set the record as the state’s largest fire complex in history. But now the Ranch Fire alone is the biggest single fire to ever scar the state.


Together, the Ranch and River fires have scorched 344,890 acres. But most of that has been driven by the Ranch Fire, which has burned much more vigorously. As of Monday morning, the fire had burned through 295,970 acres. That sets it 15,000 acres above the Thomas Fire, last year’s previous record-holding fire.

It’s a sad footnote to what’s been a explosive summer of fires and smoke in Northern California. The Ranch Fire began on July 27, taking just 17 days to chew through an area more than 10 times the size of San Francisco. Elsewhere, the Carr Fire has left a trail of destruction in Redding and the Ferguson Fire forced Yosemite National Park to evacuate portions of the park last month.

Data compiled by CAL FIRE, the state’s fire agency, shows that fires for the year-to-date have burned five times more acreage in California compared the five-year average. Add in fires on Forest Service land that’s burned and its nearly a sevenfold increase in acreage burned compared to normal.

All told, the state is on track to see a million acres of land burned up before Labor Day. Then it’s time for fall wildfire season when Santa Ana and Diablo winds can whip up flames in Southern and Northern California respectively (see: last year). And unfortunately, above normal fire activity is likely through November according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That means the Golden State could face even more ash-clogged skies and lungs and lives upended by a seemingly never ending march of flames across the landscape.

Managing editor, Earther


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So much for the bankability of the Carbon Capital Fund as offset credits. It was set up as a public/private partnership between USFS and the National Forest Foundation, a nonprofit looking to do well while doing good (or the other way around?). Or forest fire proliferation is going to make offsetters lots of money. Like all free market solutions, when supply goes down - and demand goes up - price goes up, too. The corollary is: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

A dude tried to sell me publicly owned forested land offsets once. I didn’t understand the scheme. Nice lunch, though.