Mendocino Complex Fire grows by 10,000 acres

By Daniel Uria

Aug. 15 (UPI) -- The largest wildfire in California's history, which claimed the life of a firefighter, grew nearly 10,000 acres Wednesday, fire officials said.

The Mendocino Complex Fire -- made up of the Ranch and River fires in Northern California -- burned 363,845 acres and was 64 percent contained as of 7 a.m., Cal Fire said.


A procession was held Wednesday for Draper City Fire Department Battallion Chief Matthew Burchett, who became the first person killed by the blaze Monday.

Burchett, 42, was taken to his home state of Utah after dying at Ukiah Valley Medical Center in California from injuries sustained in the fire.

He had 20 years of firefighting experience and was survived by his wife and son, California Gov. Jerry Brown said.

"Firefighters from across the nation, and world, have selflessly battled California's massive wildfires and sadly today we mourn the loss of one of those heroes," Brown said.

The Mendocino Complex Fire also destroyed 265 structures, including 147 homes, damaged 13 residences and 23 other structures, and threatened 1,025 structures.

Carr Fire

Farther north, the Carr Fire burned 211,038 acres and was 68 percent contained on Wednesday, Cal Fire said.


To date, eight people, including three firefighters, have been killed in the blaze and it has destroyed 1,077 residences, 22 commercial structures and 500 outbuildings.

It also damaged 191 residences, 26 commercial structures, and 65 outbuildings and threatened 44 more structures.

A flat tire is suspected to have caused the blaze, which began July 23. A woman in Redding has gathered hundreds of letters to let the couple believed to have sparked the fire know they are forgiven.

"I think the fire has forced us to look into each others eyes and discover the human kindness we have in us," Rachel Pilli, who wrote a post on social media looking for anyone willing to send the couple a message, told California's KRCR.

The post was later shared by a Facebook page called Carr Fire Stories and received more than 300 responses.

"We had firefighters out there fighting the fire send notes, we've had counselors saying they would be willing to meet with the couple, we've had people who've lost everything and they are even saying it's not your fault," the page's administrator, Hope Seth, said.

Donnell Fire

The Donnell Fire in Central California's Stanislaus National Forest burned 29,756 acres Wednesday, threatening 220 structures, including the oldest and tallest juniper tree in the United States.


U.S. Forest Service representative Maria Benech said park officials assisted firefighters in ensuring the tree was protected from the flames.

"The firefighters went miles ahead of the tree to protect the area, and stop the fire from spreading," Benech told CNN. "We helped the fire department by preparing as soon as possible, and we built fire lines within several hundred feet of the tree."

Firefighters used large air tankers to spray flame retardant in order to protect the 82-foot-tall tree.

Overall the fire has destroyed 54 structures and is 26 percent contained.

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