The Mendocino Complex: Maps, Photos, Videos

Flames from the River Fire erupt near a house off of Scott's Valley Road in Lake County California on Thursday.

Flames from the River Fire erupt near a house off of Scott’s Valley Road in Lake County California on Thursday. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

The two massive claws of the Mendocino Complex grew again yesterday. The River and the Ranch Fires together covered 153,738 acres and is only 30% contained. Over 15,000 Lake County residents have fled the fires. (All evacuations in Mendocino County have been lifted.)

According to the ONCC, there is an ongoing threat to major power lines and FAA radio communications link control tower. They report that there have been forty structures destroyed along with 47 minor structures and one multiple residence. But damage assessments are still ongoing.

The ONCC also reports,

Mandatory evacuations include: Lake County: Southern Lakeport area south to Hwy 29 including the communities of Blue Lakes, Upper Lake, Nice, Witter Springs, Saratoga Springs, Bachelor Valley and Scotts Valley. The Lake County Jail in Lakeport has been evacuated as well as Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

For more on the most current evacuations and road closures, click here.

Scenes from the River Fire on Thursday:

Flames erupted on the north end of the River Fire Thursday afternoon. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

Firefighters wait to defend a home as the River Fire backs down a hill just west of Scott’s Valley Road near Lakeport in Lake County, California on Thursday. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter drops water on the River Fire. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

Vehicles assisting in the fight to stop the River Fire from reaching Scott’s Valley Road near the town of Lakeport park in a safety zone, an area that crews can fall back to should the fire overrun their position. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

A supertanker begins a fire retardant drop. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

Firefighters wait to defend a home as the River Fire backs down a hill just west of Scott’s Valley Road near Lakeport in Lake County California on Thursday. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

A C-130 drops fire retardant to help stop the spread of the River Fire burning in Lake and Mendocino Counties. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

A DC-10 air tanker flies low and through heavy smoke to drop fire retardant on the River Fire. [Photo by Mark McKenna][/caption]

Flames from the River Fire erupt near a house off of Scott’s Valley Road in Lake County California on Thursday. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

The River Fire overtakes a house in Scott’s Valley. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

The River Fire consumes a home off of Scott’s Valley Road near the town of Lakeport in Lake County California on Thursday. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

A Cal Fire S-2F3AT prepares to drop fire retardant to help stop the spread of the River Fire burning in Lake and Mendocino Counties. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

When Thursday ends, the River Fire was still capturing more ground. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

A Look from the Air:

The Plan:

A crew from Portland, Oregon monitors the Rive Fire from Scott's Valley Road.

A crew from Portland, Oregon monitors the Rive Fire from Scott’s Valley Road. [Photo by Mark McKenna]

The Ranch Fire ran about six miles east yesterday nearly reaching the unhealed burn scars from the Pawnee Fire in June. It also pushed into the valley above Upper Lake. (Although containment lines are built on the west side of the valley now.)

Dozer lines are being built between the run south yesterday in the northern mountains and the Clear Lake communities.

The River Fire crests behind a home.[Photo by Mark McKenna]

Again the River Fire, mostly grew northward–pushing towards Hwy 20 and the Ranch Fire about a mile in some areas. Structures were lost as the flames chewed through remote rural neighborhoods.

The Weather:

A Red Flag warning has been issued for the area until Saturday night. That will make the weather difficult to battle and encourage the fires to expand. Expect smokey skies near the fire.

The Roads:

Update on SR 29 closure: The south end of the closure has been moved from Highland Springs Road to Park Way to facilitate the re-population of Lakeport east of 29 which has just been authorized. The highway from Park Way to to SR 20 in Upper Lake remains closed. The photo below was taken yesterday afternoon just east of Scotts Valley Road on SR 20.

State Routes 20, 29, and 175 are closed with no estimated time of reopening. Though with containment lines holding solid along 20, there is hope for reopening. Keep checking in for updates if you need to get through.

Many smaller roads are closed also. Check Cal Fire for the latest but be aware that conditions are changing fast on the frontlines.


  • Mendocino Complex Operations Map –to see details either zoom or click on the map and download a pdf.
    Mendo complex 3

    Mendocino Complex Operations Map

  • KMZ Map–Zoom for detail or for 3D imagery, click on the map and download a file that connects with your Google Earth program.

    MC heat map

    Mendocino Complex Heat Map


Redwoods Rural Health Center in Redway is a Pay It Forward donation center. Call and ask first what they are accepting.

Earlier Chapters:



  • I think those pictures of the fire overtaking that home are among the most frightening I’be seen.

  • Note to self: If you live out in the hills remove all trees and brush within 100′ of the house.

    • By the looks of the photo of the house burning I would think 1000 yards may be more appropriate.

      • Lotta Wordsworth

        Let’s clear-cut Earth. That’ll heat things up to the point crops fail worldwide and everyone starves to death. That will definitely stop the human interference with climate and the environment.

        Earth will recover quickly enough and no more Humanity causing all this trouble

      • just remember, you can get combustion w/o a flame: it takes heat, air and fuel!

    • And that is why we include photos…Nothing like a little real life to remind us that Cal Fire is right about a defensible space.

    • Probably would have made no difference

    • Actually it is not necessary to remove all trees and brush to 100′. It is important to treat that zone but if done properly (reduce the amount of fuel, and modify its structure (drastically reducing the proportion of the more kindling-like elements) and arrangement (break up spatial continuity of fuel both horizontally and vertically), IN CONJUNCTION WITH ACHIEVING A FIRE HARDENED HOME, defensible space can be both effective and aesthetically pleasing. The vast majority of burned homes ignite from windblown embers landing in a “receptive fuelbed,” or vulnerable spot(s), not from a wall of flames. Proper defensible space will preclude the likelihood of a wall of flame reaching the house which allows firefighters to EVEN CONSIDER defending the home. It will also allow them to stick with the defense longer when things get crunchy. Windblown embers can travel up to 2 miles in extreme conditions, so defensible space will not prevent them from landing on the house. That’s where the fire hardening comes in. Survey for Achilles’ heels, and mitigate them.
      There are many publications about defensible space, and several on fire hardened homes. These are my favorites for each topic, for their comprehensiveness and clarity:
      Ironically, the latter was written for the Sonoma area that burned in October, and warned of what recently occurred.
      And concerning Mr. Haggins’ comment, if you look at the picture above taken before the house ignited, you can see that there are densely packed trees leading right up to and surrounding the home. That was their big mistake. So those pictures are a tragic example of not preventing the wall of flames. It is do-able, though.

  • Kym, your site is the most informative of what’s happening. The information you’re giving is the most current and up to date, the maps thorough, detailed, and easily accessible.

    Mark McKenna, outstanding photos you’ve taken. A picture is worth a thousand words.

    The devastation here and with the Carr fire is frightening. I’m not sure how or who to help, or who needs supplies or housing at the moment, but I’ll figure that out.

    Thank you.

  • Mark, you are an outstanding photo journalist! Kim, your writing is the most informative of the efforts out there.

  • The term fire retardant is offensive, please refer to it as fire deccelerant.

    • I suggest you look the word up in the dictionary, for the proper meaning.

    • I really hope that you’re joking.

    • I sure hope you are joking. 🙂 The word retard by definition is delay or hold back progress…

    • Humboldt County ordinance fire is out of control threatening you and your neighbors with out of control and unjustified fines some adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a day the fire Crews have been saying it is impossible to contain and that it might end up consuming all of Humboldt County in this case fire retardant might be appropriate

      • We tried the deccelerant it did not work I believe it’s the nature of this fire has retardant written all over it not trying to offend you but this is about a notice to Abate a nuisance and crimes against the people of Humboldt County

    • @ Teegan: The term is offensive? Do you even know what the word means? Grab a f-ing dictionary and get educated! people are dying, losing everything they have and you are trying to be some sjw with pc crap dribbling out of your mouth that doesn’t even apply to te situation! that or you just that don’t have a grip on the English language? Your attitude offends me! Greatly!

      • I’m hoping he was being ironic…

      • Sign of the times we live in yes there are people dying and losing everything they have all over the world yes it is sad and it hurts more when it’s close to home climate scientists say that more and more dramatic changes are on their way species are falling off the cliff of Extinction at a accelerated rate maybe my humor is a bit out of place and it might be a little bit ironic and I might be a little bit of a retard myself I try to put it off as being a idiot savant and I hear that the PC crap looks better coming out of your mouth but I won’t take offense

  • Great, informative coverage! Thanks Kym and Mark for the amazing photos!

  • Amazing job Kym. Excellent analysis with all the data that’s truly needed and none of the retro stuff the mainstream news always includes to fill space.

    And the photos by Mark are incredible.

    A cautionary note for rural homes. 20 years ago fires used to go from start to 10 acres the first hour and to 50 acres the second hour. Now they go to 100+ the first hour and 500+ the second. Fires moving that fast are almost impossible to stop. The new norm. It has made escape routes the most important aspect of fire preparedness.

  • Thanks again and again — and that last map is the best one I’ve seen. I’m recommending your site to friends in/from Lake Co.

  • Marks photos are mind blowing.

    Standing ovation for Kym for all her efforts to keep us informed.

  • My friend in Clearlake just posted MANDATORY evacuation notices for Lucerne and nearby towns. 10:00 AM friday. This just keeps getting worse.

  • Fresh Mandatory Evacuation orders came out for Lucerne, Glenhaven and Clearlake Oaks, 10:33 Friday. Be safe!

  • That second-to-last map is interesting with the Pawnee fire outline in it.

    Where did they evac the jail to?

    Great updates Kym,the nat’l news is really dramatizing the sad deaths

  • The whole north shore of clearlake is under mandatory evacuation orders…

  • A Boeing 747 used as a fire tanker, amazing!

  • Also — Hwy 20 to east is also closed because of concern about Ranch fire moving into Colusa County, over the ridge to such isolated communities as Lodoga and Stonyford. On the other end, Potter Valley has just gone into mandatory evac. The evacuation center at Twin Pine Casino at Middletown is full to capacity (that means the parking lot, too, where many people have camped out in cars) though there’s apparently still room at Lower Lake High School. But options are becoming more and more limited.

  • Looking at smoke today.
    Someone tried to tell me it’s the Carr Fire, but I’m looking at a wind map that shows something else…,40.175,-122.915,7

    Looks like this is up from Mendo and Lake Counties.
    Not that it makes any real difference.
    I suppose it will limit the dancing at ROR this weekend. I guess those City Folks will get a Real Humboldt County Experience this time – being Smoked In.

  • Mark’s photos are amazing, the ones of the fire heading for and consuming the house really hits home…. it brought tears to my eyes and prayers to my heart for the folks in yet another terrifying fire.

  • Many thanks Kim, for having such great coverage and best maps, along with Mendo Voice. I don’t know why cal fire can’t put up some of these same maps. But given all the confusion around the October 2017 fires here in Mendocino County, it’s really good to have some resources to check with, above and beyond the official channels.

  • There was a piece in the LA Times last year about the time of the Santa Rosa fires. I believe the title was something to the order of “The politics of air and helicopter tankers.” According to the article in the grand scheme of things tankers and choppers really do little to no good in suppressing a major wildfire. Somehow the public wants to see “air suppression “ on the news as it makes them feel more comfortable. According to the article it’s boots on the ground that suppress wildfires. It went on to say that politicians representing the areas on fire use every political trick in the book to get those planes on the news when in reality they do little in the form of fire suppression. Don’t kill the messenger

    • Not even boots on the ground + air support have been very effective in stopping the Carr and Mendo fires. Repeatedly three bulldozer wide fire lines with retartant applied to the side they want to save and a back burn started have been over run. The new norm fires can’t be stopped, especially with erratic winds. At the same time where they can be fought they should be hit with everything. However, retardant itself is toxic stuff and that has always bothered me.

      Its also one more hazard firerfighters face. 100+ heat, thick clothing, packs and equipment, fire raging, air unhealthy and then they get hit with toxic retardant. Gotta love those people. Modern day warriors that make bullfighting look like kids play.

      • It is true that air resources are not sufficient without ground personnel. It is not accurate to portray tankers and helicopters as worthless. Firefighters tend to be pretty apolitical when it comes to our work. If those tools were not valuable, they would be left out of the toolbox. Particularly when you consider their expense. Retardant and water drops help slow the fire, and as such are used strategically in conjunction with all the other tools. Also, please consider the likely decision making process of the operations managers. Imagine the outcry from the public if they did NOT utilize all the effective tools available to them.
        There’s a lot that goes into wildfire behavior. Fuel loadings off the charts compared to 150 years ago and millennia beforehand, combined with disadvantageous weather conditions, coupled with ever more growing dispersed residential patterns, are the main culprits here. I worked on hotshot crews in the ’80’s. Back then we were almost never around houses. And even then, our strategies were often to herd the fire away from places of high value, stalling until the weather changed in our favor which then allowed us to “pinch it off.” Having more and more homes scattered throughout the hills complicates the herding aspect tremendously. Not being judgemental here, just stating reality.

      • “The new norm fires can’t be stopped, especially with erratic winds.”

        The new norm? An adjective used in front of a noun doesn’t change the fact. Soft regurgitated semantic deceit to create fraud, deceit and illusion is the norm.

        Erratic? Winds in excess of 134 mph coming at Redding on the night of July 26th, for one and a half hours, from 7-8:30.

        Coincidence? I think not. Sonoma County repeat.

  • Another good map. This is a google map with modis real time overlay. Ranch fire is expanding massively and will soon overtake Carr Fire in acreage without even adding the River Fire’s acres to it. Map also shows fire moving close to the city of Upper Lake, the ag lands and hills surrounding it. The ag lands bordering Upper Lake have been its saving grace so far. That and CalFire of course. Hopefully CalFire will stop this latest threat of encroachment. They’re hitting it hard.

  • Day # 12

    10:30 am Saturday August 4, 2018
    Re: the Global Supertanker Boeing 747

    Bryan Cox 20 hours ago
    No need for this on the Carr fire as it burns historic locations like Lewiston?????????

    Fred Jones 10 months ago
    Not allowed to drop on Forest Service fire?????? Which IDIOT decided that?

    D McNamara 10 months ago
    It’s a Cal Fire Project….strictly political…..Federal lands don’t get the benefits unless they pay….and yes with already Federally supported funds to Cali.

    Mr SS 7 months ago
    Bud Dawkins 747 have a safe flying record

    Outdoorsguy 1 month ago
    D McNamara “strictly political”? Forests and homes are burning down and they want to play politics? SMH…

    Madam Mortified 23 hours ago

  • thank you for the images and maps, sad times. be kind to each other, shouldn’t take a disaster to bring that out in people but especially needed when times are rough

  • Thank you for your pictures that exquisitely tell the story of these tragic fires. I follow this sad story through the media almost daily, and pray for the safety of all people involved, including the photographers.

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