Twin Blazes Become California's Largest Wildfire In History

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Officials say a utility worker has been killed near a Northern California wildfire as crews continue to battle multiple blazes that have forced more evacuations.

More than 3,700 firefighting personnel are battling the Mendocino Complex, one of about 17 wildfires burning in the state. Dry, hot winds fueled both blazes, which have collectively charred almost 400 square miles (1,036 square kilometers) of brush and timber.

Additional areas impacted by the Mendocino Complex Fire are seeing evacuations lifted.

Meanwhile US President Donald Trump has reiterated social media comments that the fires' spread is being "made so much worse" by California's environmental laws. The Thomas Fire killed two people, burned 440 square miles, and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in Southern California before being fully contained January 12. "It's not like we would've taken that water and sprayed it on the forest, and it's not clear how drying out our rivers would reduce our fire risks", Westerling says.

Firefighters are tackling 16 major blazes across the state amid hot weather, strong winds and low humidity.

Nationally, wildfires have burned about 5.1 million acres this year, about 1.1 million acres above the 10-year average for the seven-month period, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Both fires began on July 27, according to Cal Fire.

Thankfully, there have been no fatalities or major injuries on this fire, to firefighters or civilians.

On the two fires 75 residences have been destroyed and another 9,300 remain threatened. The Thomas Fire scorched a much more densely populated area, burning through 1,063 structures and damaging 280 more.

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"The problem here is he's not acknowledging the role climate change is playing in California's fire problem, and the scale of the problem is far beyond anything he's talking about doing", Westerling says. And parts of Colusa, Lake, and Mendocino counties have been evacuated.

The Ranch Fire is 225,001 acres and containment has decreased to 21% - making this fire the sixth largest in state history by itself.

The amount of work on this fire is truly tremendous and expensive, with California rapidly running through the money budgeted for the summer fire season.

The second portion of Trump's tweet, that California "Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!", is also confusing.

At the same time, firefighters have pulled back in the uninhabited national forests to the north, where they have cut fire lines and are employing indirect methods.

Peter Gleick, one of California's leading experts on Western water resources as president of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute, said that Trump appeared to be seizing on the wildfires to side with farmers on a separate debate over how to allocate California's finite water resources among farmers, cities, fish and wildlife.

"Honestly, the way the state manages its water, that really has no bearing on the explosive growth of the fires", said Glen MacDonald, a geography professor at the University of California Los Angeles who studies wildfires.

"The president has been pretty good on helping us in disasters, so I'm hopeful", said Brown, a Democrat.

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