The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings of critical fire weather conditions through Saturday night, saying a series of dry low-pressure systems passing through the region could bring wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour (56 kph) that could turn small fires or even sparks into racing walls of flames. Fueled by high temperatures, wind and low humidity, the blaze destroyed multiple homes and at least one historic building.
The two fires burning a few miles apart and known as the Mendocino Complex have scorched 428 square miles (1,108 square kilometers) since igniting July 27 about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of San Francisco, the state's firefighting agency said. Two firefighters and four residents, including two children, were also killed.
The agency reports that a total of 9,300 structures are threatened, 68 homes have been destroyed and 12 other homes have been damaged. In an interview with the Associated Press, NWS meteorologist Duane Dykema said the phenomenon was on par with some of the most destructive Midwest tornadoes.
Whirls are created when hot air rises and twists tightly, he said. "But I would say things will get much tighter in the next five years, as the business cycle turns negative and as the fires continue", he said.
Six people, including two firefighters, have died, and the fire has destroyed 1,060 homes and almost 500 other buildings, making it the sixth-most-destructive wildfire in California history, officials said.
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 wildfire started two weeks ago by sparks from the steel wheel of a towed-trailer's flat tire.
"It looks like there's dicey weather on the way", LaBoa said.
The size of the fires surpasses a blaze last December in Southern California that burned 440.5 square miles (1,140.8 kilometers).
The twin fires have destroyed 41 homes.
Firefighters have achieved 41 percent containment of that forest fire.
Both fires are still active especially in the ridgetop areas.
Yosemite Valley residents must leave the valley by noon Friday, National Park Service officials said.
The blaze has killed two firefighters.
More immediately, the declaration will enable federal agencies to help battle the 17 major fires burning throughout the state.
"The Mendocino Complex Fire has charred more than 102,790 hectares, making it the fifth largest blaze in California's history", AccuWeather said on its website.
CBN News' Heather Sells is in California covering the wildfires.
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