5 LAFD Firefighters Injured While Battling Mendocino Complex as Largest Fire in State History Forces New Evacuations
Five firefighters with the Los Angeles Fire Department were injured while battling the massive Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, which has scorched more than 400,000 acres and destroyed at least 157 homes, fire officials said Monday.
The five members of the department’s strike team 1880C suffered minor injuries before being treated and released from hospitals in the area, authorities said.
The Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest in recorded state history, is made up of the roughly 350,000-acre Ranch Fire and nearly 50,000-acre River Fire. While the giant blaze has been described by fire officials as one event, the two wildfires within it never merged.
Last week, a firefighter from Utah had died while battling the fire. He was later identified by authorities as 42-year-old Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett of the Draper City Fire Department.
With just over 600 square miles burned by the wildfire in Northern California, evacuations remain in place for residents across Lake, Mendocino, Colusa and Glenn counties. Additional evacuations were ordered on Monday as the blaze continued to grow.
About 1,050 structures are still threatened by the fire even as it reached 79 percent containment by Monday evening, officials said.
“We are thankful that our members are safe and the LAFD Strike Team is expected to return to the City in the coming days,” L.A. Fire Department officials said in a news release.
In a Monday evening update about the Mendocino Complex Fire, Cal Fire officials said northern and northeastern areas of the fire continue to burn in steep rugged terrain, as part of the Ranch Fire, while firefighters continue trying to contain those portions of it.
Meanwhile, the smaller River fire has had “no movement,” officials said in the update.
The steep terrain facing firefighters on the front lines has been unfamiliar territory for many of the 3,500 of them battling the flames, Capt. Cary Wright, a Cal Fire spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times.
He described dense brush and shrubbery in those areas as dangerous in their flammability and problematic for firefighters on the ground.
“Trees burn and then fall, so it’s dangerous to get ground resources in there,” Wright told the Times.
Firefighting air tankers from across the western U.S. have been brought into fly fire suppression missions over the area, according to Cal Fire officials. Increasing humidity is also expected to help in lowering fire activity in the evenings.