New Evacuation Orders in Mendocino Complex Fires

Rising winds forecast for Northern California wildfire zones

The move comes shortly after Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) confirmed one of its employees died in an accident while working to restore services in Shasta County.

"He was working in a remote area in risky terrain in supprt of power restoriation efforts", said Melissa Subbotin, a PG&E spokesperson.

The blaze in Mendocino County, about 90 miles (145 km) north of San Francisco, had spread to cover a total of 201,471 acres (81,500 hectares) by early Saturday, after increasing more than 25 percent in size from Friday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.

The Mendocino Complex Fire, made up of two separate conflagrations that merged near Ukiah, north of Sacramento, exploded by 25 percent overnight and had blackened almost 400 square miles as of Sunday morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Progress on the River Fire has gained ground as responders reached 58 percent containment on the 48,000-acre blaze.

Meanwhile to the south, new evacuations were ordered Saturday evening near twin fires burning in Mendocino and Lake counties across wilderness on both sides of Clear Lake. Another 9,000 buildings are threatened.

The blaze has killed two firefighters.

"Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-priced loans to cover uninsured property loses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster", the White House said in a written statement.

KQED's Lesley McClurg and Kat Snow reported for NPRthat the fires have had lasting impacts on residents there, "Confronting constant reminders of what fire can do has become a terrifying reality for people who survived last year's flames and are still piecing their lives back together". The twirling tower of flame reached speeds of 143 miles per hour (230 kph), which rivaled some of the most destructive Midwest tornados, National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said.

Dykema says the whirl started when hot air from the exceptionally hot fire rose and twisted tightly, creating a powerful tornado of flames and wind.

US President Donald Trump declared a "major disaster" in California and ordered federal funding to be made available to help recovery efforts, the White House said in a statement on Sunday.

"The Mendocino Complex Fire has charred more than 254,000 acres (102,790 ha), making it the fifth largest blaze in California's history", AccuWeather said on its website. An eighth fire-related death occurred in the Ferguson Fire, east of San Jose, when Capt. Brian Hughes of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshot Crew was killed.

The fire burned slowly for days before winds suddenly whipped it up last week and drove it furiously through brush and timber. Hughes was killed July 29 by a falling tree while fighting the wildfire that has closed Yosemite National Park at the height of tourist season.

The larger one, the Ranch Fire, has consumed more than 207,000 acres, majority in the Mendocino National Forest.

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