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California wildfire ‘largest in history’

Evacuees watch the sunset as smoke from the Ranch Fire rises into the sky at Austin Park Beach. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

Evacuees watch the sunset as smoke from the Ranch Fire rises into the sky at Austin Park Beach. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The Mendocino Complex became the largest wildfire in Californian history on Monday as it raged at the southern tip of the Mendocino National Forest where crews battled to keep flames from descending into foothill communities.

The Mendocino Complex Fire, made up of two separate conflagrations that merged, grew to 283,800 acres (114,800 hectares) and was still growing, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The fire surpassed the Thomas Fire, which burned 281,893 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties in 2017, as prime weather conditions are expected to persist.

“Unfortunately, they’re not going to get a break anytime soon,” National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Hurley said of firefighters who had cut buffer lines around 30 percent of the blaze. “It’s pretty doggone hot and dry, and it’s going to stay that way.”

Hurley said temperatures could reach 110 degrees (43 Celsius) in Northern California over the next few days with gusty winds fanning the flames.

The Mendocino Complex, which has destroyed 75 homes and forced thousands to flee, is the largest of eight major wildfires burning out of control across California, prompting US President Donald Trump to declare a “major disaster” in the state.

A total of nearly 3,900 people were fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire, including crews from Arizona, Washington and Alaska.

“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

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