Ranch Fire, the Largest Wildland Blaze in California History, Started by Hammer Sparks: Cal Fire

Firefighters conduct a controlled burn to defend houses against flames from the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, as it continues to spread toward the town of Upper Lake on Aug. 2, 2018. (Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images)

Firefighters conduct a controlled burn to defend houses against flames from the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, as it continues to spread toward the town of Upper Lake on Aug. 2, 2018. (Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images)

Sparks from a hammer driving a metal stake into the ground ignited a 2018 blaze in Northern California that killed a firefighter and became the largest wildland fire in state history, officials said Thursday.

The blaze started July 17, 2018, in Mendocino County and quickly spread, aided by dry vegetation, strong winds and hot temperatures. It spread to Colusa, Glenn and Lake counties, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The fire burned a total of 640 square miles, much of it in the Mendocino National Forest, making it the largest wildland fire, or fire on undeveloped land, in state history. It also destroyed nearly 160 homes and killed a firefighter from Utah.

Cal Fire did not identify the person who ignited the blaze. It said no charges will be filed.

The Ranch fire was one of two side-by-side blazes dubbed the Mendocino Complex. The fires burned more than 700 square miles of grass, brush and timber before they were contained. That’s an area more than twice the size of New York City.

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