California is suffering from a devastating wildfire season — here's where fires are tearing through the state

  • Wildfires are tearing through California, driven by dry winds and triple-digit temperatures.
  • The Mendocino Complex Fire is the largest in the state’s history, and the Carr Fire is the sixth most destructive, according to Cal Fire, the state’s fire agency.
  • The fires are part of a worsening trend: 12 of the 15 largest fires in the state’s history have occurred since 2000.

The wildfires tearing through California have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres of land, destroyed thousands of structures, and forced evacuations across the state.

The Carr Fire, which took seven lives near the city of Redding, was first ignited on July 23 after a trailer’s tire blew out and the rim made contact with the pavement.

“It is an Armageddon-like feel up here,” a local resident told The Sacramento Bee in July. “Heavy smoke. Gas stations are jam-packed. It is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”

While firefighters mostly have the blaze contained, it’s already considered the sixth most destructive fire in the state’s history, according to Cal Fire, the state’s fire and disaster-relief agency. That cost may increase as the damage is assessed.

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency to assist with fighting the fires.

The Mendocino Complex Fire, currently burning in northern California, is the largest in the state’s history. The fire has burned over 283,000 acres – almost 440 square miles – as of Wednesday, and firefighters have less than half of the blaze contained, according to Cal Fire.

The fire’s size may increase in coming days, officials warned.

California fires chartShayanne Gal/Business Insider

Driven by triple-digit temperatures and high winds, the Mendocino Complex Fire was created when two smaller fires, the Ranch Fire, and the River Fire, merged:

Mendocino fires mapShayanne Gal/Business Insider

And though the Mendocino Complex and Carr fires are the two largest burning, there are 17 other active fires across the state of California:

California wildfires mapShayanne Gal/Business Insider

Cal Fire, short for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, handles the largest, most dangerous fires burning in the state along with federal officials. Smaller fires – or those not located near populated areas – are handled by local firefighting teams.

The fires in California are part of a worsening trend that’s driven by climate change.

Because of rising temperatures and increasing drought, the average wildfire season now lasts at least 2 1/2 months longer than it did in the early 1970s. The amount of land that has burned in the western US since 1984 is double what would have been expected without the effects of climate change.

California spent a total of $US505 million fighting fires across the state in 2017 – a number that may be even larger in 2018. For comparison, in 1997, the state spent only $US47 million, according to an analysis from Climate Nexus, a nonprofit group.

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