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California’s all-time largest fire finally contained

Seven-week ordeal of Mendocino Complex fire wraps up at last

Mendocino-Complex Fire In Northern California Grows To Largest Fire In State’s History
The Mendocino Complex Fire in early August.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The US Forest Service [USFS] announced Wednesday that both parts of the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest wildfire in California’s recorded history, are now completely contained by fire lines.

The Mendocino Complex Fire was technically two fires with a common origin. Fire crews contained the smaller River Fire shortly after the blaze broke out on July 27, but the larger Ranch Fire burned on and on.

USFS reported the burn as more than 90 percent contained for weeks but didn’t quite cross the hump with it until Wednesday. The Mendocino Complex Fire burned 459,123 acres, and Cal Fire records 280 destroyed structures in all.

The fire also killed Battalion Chief Matt Burchett of Draper, Utah, a 23-year wildfire veteran, in August.

According to a Wednesday press release:

The forest is doing everything possible to reasonably reduce risks to the public and reopen areas but there is still a lot of restoration work to do. Some of the hazards in the closed area include burned standing trees or snags, exposed rebar stakes, logs and rocks that may become loose, and burned-out stump holes.

The repair work has to be done before areas can be reopened to the public. With the current warmer and drier weather more smoke from well within the perimeter of the fire may be visible at times.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The Mendocino Complex Fire grew with shocking speed in July, becoming the state’s largest in just a few days.

By comparison, the second-largest state fire, 2017’s Thomas Fire, was less than 282,000 acres at its peak, barely more than 60 percent the size of this most recent conflagration.

As of Thursday morning Cal Fire reports five active, uncontained wildfires in the northern part of the state and one immediately across the border in Oregon.