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Twin Blazes form California's Largest Wildfire in History

Two blazes mercilessly charring northern California have grown so rapidly that they became the US state's largest in recorded history Monday, authorities said.

Collectively dubbed the Mendocino Complex, the wildfires have burned through 283,800 acres (114,850 hectares) -- an area nearly the size of the sprawling city of Los Angeles -- and are just 30 percent contained, according to state fire authority CalFire. Two people have died in the inferno.

"Today a higher pressure system brought warmer weather, drying, and strong winds to the region," CalFire said in an evening update.

"Tonight fire crews will try to take advantage of the lower temperatures to increase suppression and hold current containment lines."

It was the second fire to break records in the fire-prone, most populous US state in as many years, following the Thomas Fire in December 2017, which stood at 281,893 acres.

Further north in the state, the deadly Carr Fire has scorched more than 164,400 acres of land since July 23, and killed another seven people along the way.

Its intensity was so great at one point, that it generated a tornado-like whirl of fire -- as well as its own weather system.

Authorities say it was triggered by the "mechanical failure of a vehicle" that caused sparks to fly in tinderbox-dry conditions.

The fire has razed more than 1,600 buildings, including some 1,000 homes, state officials say.

More than 14,000 firefighters were battling the blazes across the state.

Several thousand people have been evacuated as the fires swept across the state, although some have been given permission in recent days to return to their homes.

The wildfires are "extremely fast, extremely aggressive, extremely dangerous," said Scott McLean, a deputy chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 

"Look how big it got, just in a matter of days... Look how fast this Mendocino Complex went up in ranking. That doesn't happen. That just doesn't happen."

President Donald Trump raised eyebrows by tweeting about the wildfires inaccurately, claiming there was not enough water to fight them and appearing to place the blame on environmental laws, not climate change.

"California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized," Trump said. 

"It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!"

In fact, "we have plenty of water to fight these wildfires, but let's be clear: It's our changing climate that is leading to more severe and destructive fires," Daniel Berlant, CalFire assistant deputy director, told The New York Times.

In an unrelated long-running dispute, farmers have demanded more water to irrigate crops for years, while environmentalists say diverting more water to crops would kill off fish stock and hurt rivers.

Source: Agence France Presse


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