Sunday, August 19News That Matters

California Fires Worsen, Prompting Talk of Shifts in Development


The Ranch Fire, part of the larger inferno known as the Mendocino Complex, burned Sunday near Clearlake Oaks, Calif.

The Ranch Fire, part of the larger inferno known as the Mendocino Complex, burned Sunday near Clearlake Oaks, Calif.


Photo:

noah berger/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

By

SAN FRANCISCO—Monday brought no end in sight for California’s summer of fires as crews battled what officials described as the second-largest wildfire in the state’s history.

As of Monday, the Mendocino Complex—an inferno combining two fires burning just north of Napa County’s wine-growing region—had scorched more than 273,000 acres, said officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fires forced new evacuations over the weekend amid high winds, hot temperatures and low humidity. Thousands of structures remained under threat.

As of Monday, 16 major fires were burning across California, with more than 14,000 firefighters deployed to battle them.

The summer fires have claimed seven lives and prompted discussions among top leaders about how and where California builds its communities.

“We have to re-examine the way we manage our forests, the way we build our houses—how we build them, where we build them—and how much we invest in our fire protection services,”

California Gov. Jerry Brown

said over the weekend after touring devastated regions in Shasta County.

The Mendocino Complex is composed of two fires in Colusa, Lake and Mendocino counties, and has surrounded communities around Clear Lake, one of the state’s largest natural freshwater lakes.

The Mendocino Complex has worsened just as officials were beginning to get a handle on the Carr Fire blaze threatening Shasta County, another rural portion of the state.

Spreading Fires

The Mendocino Complex Fire, which consists of the Ranch Fire and the River Fire, continues to grow in Northern California.

Fire perimeters

5 miles

July 28

Aug. 6

Aug. 2

5 km

ranch fire

Lake

Mendocino

20

Ukiah

Upper

Lake

Nice

Indian

Valley

Reservoir

101

Clear

Lake

Lucerne

river fire

20

DETAIL

Kelseyville

Clearlake

29

2018 fires

CALIFORNIA

Source: GeoMAC

Renée Rigdon and Dylan Moriarty/The Wall Street Journal

Fire perimeters

5 miles

July 28

Aug. 2

Aug. 6

5 km

ranch fire

20

Lake

Mendocino

Upper

Lake

Ukiah

Indian

Valley

Reservoir

Nice

101

Clear

Lake

Lucerne

river fire

20

DETAIL

Kelseyville

Clearlake

29

2018 fires

CALIFORNIA

Source: GeoMAC

Renée Rigdon and Dylan Moriarty/The Wall Street Journal

Fire perimeters

5 miles

July 28

Aug. 2

Aug. 6

5 km

ranch fire

Lake

Mendocino

20

Ukiah

Upper

Lake

Nice

Indian

Valley

Reservoir

101

Clear

Lake

Lucerne

river fire

20

DETAIL

Kelseyville

Clearlake

2018 fires

29

CALIFORNIA

Source: GeoMAC

Renée Rigdon and Dylan Moriarty/The Wall Street Journal

Fire perimeters

Aug. 6

Aug. 2

July 28

5 miles

5 km

ranch fire

20

Upper

Lake

Ukiah

101

Clear

Lake

Lucerne

river

fire

20

Clearlake

Kelseyville

29

DETAIL

Source: GeoMAC

Renée Rigdon

and Dylan Moriarty/

The Wall Street Journal

2018 fires

CALIFORNIA

President Donald Trump approved a request for a major disaster declaration there over the weekend.

California officials said they were also requesting major disaster declarations for Lake, Mendocino and Napa counties on an expedited basis.

Char Miller, professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. said the fires were underscoring that California communities were encroaching in areas once not as densely populated.

Communities in California and the West should consider incentives to leave “fire hazard zones” undeveloped—by purchasing land and setting it aside, he said.

“There is a correlation between when we move into chaparral or into sagebrush…we bring fire with us,” Mr. Miller said. “Add to our presence all of these other climatic issues that are going in the state and we are setting the conditions for the very harm we are now experiencing.”

The state’s largest fire on record was the Thomas Fire in Ventura County last year, which burned about 282,000 acres.

Scott McLean, a spokesman for Cal-Fire, said the Mendocino Complex fire was likely to surpass that soon.

Cal-Fire said 629,531 acres had burned in California as of Aug. 5 this year, compared to 223,238 acres during the same period last year.

Write to Alejandro Lazo at alejandro.lazo@wsj.com

Appeared in the August 7, 2018, print edition as ‘California Combats 16 Wildfires.’

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