The Mendocino Complex Rolls Through New Land (Maps, Photos)

Cows huddle together as the Ranch Fire tears through the hills behind them. [All photos by Mark McKenna]

Today, the Mendocino Complex pushed out to 273,664 acres. Firefighters have only manged to contain about 30% of this behemoth. Over 21,000 people have been displaced.

According to Cal Fire, “The River Fire had limited movement overnight, a burnout operation conducted on the Northern portion of the fire in the late afternoon improved containment. Today we will look at burning out and
tying in containment lines”

They warn though that the Ranch Fire continues is pushing hard in both the north and south eastern directions. Multiple small towns and rural neighborhoods are its path. “The terrain on the Northern quarter of the
Ranch Fire make it challenging to access the fire front directly,” they state. “Many crews will be on the ground in the communities threatened by the fire, providing structure protection.”

Scenes from the Complex by Mark McKenna:

Flames from The Ranch Fire burn south over a ridge into High Valley.

Another view.

Still another.

Firefighters with Cal Fire rush into a field in High Valley near the town of Clearlake Oaks to fight spot fires from the Ranch Fire on Sunday.

Firefighters with Cal Fire rush to add more hose to a line.

They have to move quickly.

The flames cover ground unbelievably fast.

Then a spot fire breaks out next to engines.

Cal Fire crews attack the spot fires.

They have to make sure they don’t leave embers that can grow into a flame.

Long Beach firefighters prepare to fight a spot fire in a nearby field.

Firefighters use a flare to start a backfire to stop a spot fire in a field.

A fire vortex forms for a brief moment.

A firefighter stops a moment to shield himself from a particularly vicious flare-up before returning to the fight.

Bulldozers cut a fire break in a field in High Valley near the town of Clearlake Oaks to help slow the spread of anticipated spot fires from the Ranch Fire on Sunday.

Firefighters monitor a field watching for anticipated spot fires.

Flames are still advancing in other areas but at least this spot fire was conquered.

The Weather: 

Expect temperatures to rise this week, humidity to remain low and expect it to be breezy.

The Roads:

State Route 175 remains open as the River Fire burns to the north. State Routes 20 and 29 are still closed with no estimated time of reopening. According to Cal Trans,

SR 20- Reopened from Potter Valley Road SR 29; remains closed from SR 29 to SR 53.

SR 29- Has Reopened.

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


  • Fire Progression Maps up till August 3. [NOTE: These do not have the last days of the fires’ perimeters. We’ll update these later today.]
  • Mendocino Complex Operations Map –to see details either zoom or click on the map and download a pdf.
    Mendocino Complex Operations Map

    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.
    Mendocino Complex Ops Map

    Mendocino Complex Heat Map



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Earlier Chapters:



  • Kym, you do make it real. Tomorrow I make another donation.

  • those pics of the grass field burning , the road scene looks like high valley ranch , once owned back in 20s-30s by jimmy duranti , the movie star

    • I remember travelling the back roads of those brown hills 60 years ago. There were occasional blackened areas from the road into the fields every year but they did not go more than a few acres before they were stopped by the owners and local residents.

      I suppose there are too many roads, too many incidents and too much lack of connection for that to be so true today. Or maybe too many incidents for public entities to act promptly.

  • many thanks Kym, U Duh Gurl,,,,,

  • Thank you Kym.

  • Thank you Kym for this excellent reporting. No one else is doing such a thorough job. I applaud your dedication in presenting the facts and doing regular updates. I drove through the Ukiah valley twice last week and seeing those massive clouds of smoke and ash was stunning. The words ‘thank you’ to all the firefighters just isn’t enough. I am thanking you for this beyond brilliant reporting.

  • pic of high valley ranch in 2016

  • The Fires are so big they look like they have merged into one gigantic fire.

  • wider view same ranch

  • The entire south end of the mendocino national forest seems to have combusted..
    has it gone into the rice fork of the upper mainstem eel river yet anybody?
    Very nice country up there in those brushy mountains.
    Best of luck fire fighters, I can only imagine the erosion and road washouts this winter..
    A sad trade off for a great wildflower year

    • Yes, its in the upper drainage of the Rice Fork, and heading towards Rice Valley and Lake Pillsbury. Thats an area that is very hard to fight. Too remote, too rugged and alot of heavy fuels.

  • Nice photos, trying to tell a story, I get that, but a LOT to scroll through to get to info (like maps, etc.). Maybe a different approach -?

    How about a couple of photos and then a link “click here for more photos.” The info is more important.

  • As always Kym, best coverage on the web.

    An interesting fact about flashy fuels, especially tall grass like in the photos, its the most dangerous of all wildland fire fighting scenarios. Historically speaking, more firefighters have died from flashy fuels than anything else. Though they only burn for a brief period as the front passes, they generate great heat and move very fast when wind driven.

    The good news is that if you are in a field and about to be overtaken, if you can leap through the flames and get into the black burnt area its the safest place to be in a fire. Not a good situation to be in but trying to outrun a fire that is moving faster than you can run is the worst. If there is no other alternative, try and get into the black.

    • I remember reading somewhere that an experienced firefighter told about starting a fire in the grass to create a circle that was already burnt, then getting into the middle of that when a bigger fire was out running him.

      • Yes, in that situation its the only thing they can do. Light it, stay on the side that the wind is at your back, and get into the black. Things like this should be taught in schools for people who live in rural areas.

    • This was not my best effort but Mark’s photos and the maps needed to get out.

  • I don’t know if anyone caught Trumps asinine tweet blaming our dangerous fires on environmental laws, but Wildfire Today has an excellent rebuttal and a good overview of the real reason we are seeing such explosive fires. Good read.

    • Anti troll league

      As usual, the minute the word “Trump” appears, some people stop reading what he did say and make up stuff according to their own ideas. He did not ‘blame’ environmental laws for the fires. He said that they are exacerbated and made worse by not storing and using available water that is allowed to run off according to environmental laws. He also said that “must tree clear”, whatever he meant by that, to stop fire from spreading. Trump is frequently unclear as to what he means which gives lots of scope for those who froth at the mouth over the mere mention of his name.

      It isn’t necessary to agree with him to be accurate.

      • He said the currant fires are magnified and made worse by environmental laws that let water flow free to the ocean, ie theres not enough water to fight these fires.

        a) The two worst, the ones he’s referring to are the Carr Fire which surrounds Whiskeytown Lake and the Mendo fires which surround Clear Lake. There is ample water for these fires. The reason for fire intensity these days is high temps and drought, exacerbated by global warming, something he is helping make worse.

        b) Salmon and steelhead move from inland to the ocean and back. The environmental laws he is referring to are there to try and save these species from extinction. Cutting off more habitat by building dams is the worst thing we could do.

        To not respond to these fires until now, and do it with his offensive tweet is inexcusable. I almost never get involved in Trump wars on forums because there are so many trolls out there ready to jump to his defense and do anything to make someone look bad. Bottom line is this. To finally address the suffering ongoing in northwestern CA by diverting the discussion to inane topics is not what a president should do. In fact it’s the exact opposite. Whether he’s putting blame on something or saying they are made worse is not the issue.

        • Trump’s got a point… Environmentalists won’t let people store water, cut trees, etc… Onerous red tape made the situation MUCH worse.. (Firebreaks not allowed due to “fragmentation” — how’s that working out) not going to get into global warming, but it’s usually quite hot in the summer months… plus even if America got EMP’d and destroyed;…. the rest of the world will still produce tons of pollution so don’t put all of the blame on Trump for warm weather and drought…. This area should be covered with FARMS that store water, instead of letting it go to waste… fresh water is a rare commodity… Trump is a smart businessman and understands government largesse, corruption, and over-reach… lots of that going around. We all bear responsibility for not managing our forested lands properly after the logging boom last century — crowded, small oak trees fighting for sunlight and water are not the way mama nature intended… lots of “missed treatments” in the forest. Ask a forester… It’s just that National forest admin won’t thin without someone paying… Dozer lines and fire breaks BEFORE a fire starts is what we need, no? Growers and loggers provide that service on their own lands for free. City slicker yuppies hate on them constantly…

          So, yeah, thank a firefighter but also thank a logger, responsible land owner, or a farmer too!

          Look, I’m an environmentalist too, but when you don’t PLAN for disasters, you get huge disasters… Bless the individual firemen, but not the Zoeberg Forest Services Act which is causing these fires in conjunction with climate change.

          Salmon are basically eight track tapes or rotary phones up here at this point… global warmed…Next time someone dies from a wildfire, blame the fish, or Darwin, or Zoeberg

          • a) Once again, water is not the problem. “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,” said Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director of Cal Fire, the state’s fire agency.

            b) The new norm fires are not being stopped by firebreaks. Firebreaks are being over run constantly. The problem is the intensity of these fires exacerbated by a warming planet that is being warmed because of the greenhouse effect that carbon and methane produce.

            c) I agree that overstocked forests due to previous logging or fire need to be thinned. However, to make them fire safe we need to leave the big trees and take out a percentage of the smaller trees. Taking out the overstory (big trees) encourages brush growth and heats the understory. Plus, big trees can survive fire better than small stuff. Unfortunately we do the opposite.

            d) We have one of the worst disasters of all time screaming down our backs. The greenhouse effect. It’s at the root of all these problems. The world is trying to plan how to stop or mitigate it and trump is trying to thwart these plans.

            It’s not rocket science guys. I don’t care what anyones agenda is, if we don’t start trying to mitigate the greenhouse effect this planet is toast.

              • Anti troll league

                Not well read though. Sometimes I really wonder if anyone actually reads for comprehension at all.

            • Other links never mentioned- CLIMATE CHANGE is due to OVER-CONSUMPTION OF RESOURCES (fossil fuels, cattle and logging of rain forests). Consumption of those resources is directly due to OVERPOPULATION… BTW- climate change is also driving the massive migrations to the northern hemisphere as equatorial regions (Central America, Africa) begin breaking down. Here it is called “illegal immigration”. You will see none of these links made in the mainstream news. I don’t know why. We need to start talking about the real drivers of our demise…

            • fuel reduction and conditions, anyone that is claiming anything else is not very informed on the situation. And as humans we currently have no control over current conditions (I won’t argue conditions for the future as that is irrelevant to today) and as Californians we have done as close to nothing as humanly possible for fuel reduction, for that we are responsible. Not trump, not the drought several years ago and not anything else. A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and we will continue to witness this year after year until policy changes. Sensible forest and grazing ground management for fire prevention is the only answer because you can’t put a monster like these out until conditions allow it, so either prevent it as a whole or get used to it.

              • Not true that people haven’t been trying. For years people have been trying to point out that clear cutting millions of acres of forest that then end up being thickets of trees and brush is an extreme fire hazard yet have gotten no where. The only way to restore healthy fire resistant forests at this point is to thin from below and let the larger trees remain. As the larger forests grow they’ll block sun to the understory and kill off the brush. They will also be able to survive prescribed burns. Anything else can not be called sensible.

                • That is where you are part of the problem, small viewing and polarizing of the issue. Yes, clear cutting is bad, for fire prevention clear cutting is horrible. Clear cutting is the devil. Now can we move on to the real problem sensible management of our state. Logging and grazing is the only feasible (alongside controlled burns which everyone is scared to do now) method of reducing fuel, that fuels the fires. You cannot restore forests to old growth status, which would be awesome, anytime within several centuries so your point is completely irrelevant. Once humans impact a area it requires sensible management because you have already altered the ecosystem which will never be the same. People trying to stop clear cutting in 1 percent of our area is not the same as fuel reduction across the entire northern state and for you to argue it’s the same thing makes everyone who knows anything about fire suppression laugh about your response. Conditions and fuel. Once more, conditions and fuel.

            • It’s not water to fight fires. It’s water for irrigation and keeping certain areas greener than they might be otherwise. Also removing especially dead trees so that the fire risk is lessened. There are points to what he says, even if you don’t agree with them.

              Global warming measures, which BTW will be helped returning any manufacturing to the US’s stricter regulations, will not not stop these fires now. Other compensations are needed now.

              As to over population- as usual simple ideas become complex when it gets to details. Those who voluntarily reduce their population growth yet didn’t restrict immigration are simply going to be replaced by those who don’t limit their population. Beside who gets to control who has children and who doesn’t? Somehow when it gets down to the nitty gritty, those who throw around simple ideas are the ones most vociferously objecting to actually doing what needs doing. People might voluntarily restrict their population growth if they feel safe in doing so. If they don’t, such attempts lead to violence.

            • But if you assume that “tree clear” is the same as “clear cutting” , you are also assuming what you prefer he said rather then asking what he meant. Just like you assume what you prefer about water- in which he said the massive ammounts of water are not being well utilized by letting it flow into the ocean- not that there isn’t enough water to fight fires. Not letting flow into the ocean means storage. You have to ignore that part of his tweet to come up with your idea of what he said.

              Sheesh. This was a tweet. A stupid way for anyone in power to convey ideas. But then that seems to be the tendency of many politicians today. It’s good for nasty personal attacks but seems to waste every chance developing rational policies. It’s the ugly world first created by the Democrats. Remember the lauding of Obama’s use (and misuse that was never called out) of the new medias? The stodgy Republicans were at least 2 election cycles behind Obama’s initial use of the internet to sling mud at opponents in easy to understand but destructive bites. In fact that Trump out Democratted the Democrats at shooting down his Republican opponents in tweets and the like is the big reason the Republicans hate him as much as the Democrats hate him. He simply out nastied the original nasties who glorified in their destruction. Well, everyone got exactly what they were asking for. Someone to hate for their own failures.

        • Very well said, bravo.

          I completely agree with you.

    • Trump is a New Yorker and I’d expect him to know as much about wildland fires in the West as any other New Yorker.

      • New York City…..?


        A little “illegal” grading would have saved a lot of properties…

      • I knew he was an idiot when he came to CA and said “There is no drought” at the tail end of the worst CA drought in history.

        What an ass. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if John Kelly erased Trumps first tweet about the fires:
        “There are no fires”

        • Taking every other word of a statement to wave as a red flag in front of the bull headed is not civil. If something sounds odd, then at least take the time to read the original words rather than parroting other’s edited versions.

          • Trump 2016: There is no draught.

            Trump 2018: There is no water.

            A bull is way smarter than Trump, but if he’ll chase a red flag- I’ll wave it at the edge of El Capitan…

            • You also said “There is no drought” in your post. Taking those words out of context would be a deliberate misreading too. Which is what frenzied haters glory in doing.

              I was defending actually reading before responding but I can see that the word “Trump” will always stop some from that and it’s a waste of words to push for it. Inevitably the Trump deranged confuse pointing out that they are not reading the words accurately with supporting Trump’s opinions. They spit and hiss like an angry cat. No amount of being rational will redirect their ire to the point. And defending Trump’s policies is not something I want to endlessly be dragged into. But it sure would be nice if Trump haters would actually hate him for what he does rather than what they mistake him to say.

              • What dont you get, he said those things. Theres always more. In this case its unimportant because he states fallacies as fact, and with that, context becomes irrelevant. His lie is what im commenting on. I dont care what he thinks regarding how much we dump to the ocean to protect some silly fish. The fact is, the amount of water we dump is less than what it would take to farm an acre of almonds for one year.
                There would still have been a draught if we had kept that water. Still no snow pack for 4 winters at the time. Big draught!

                Is that better?

                For those who think it to be worth it;

                Download all his speeches and read em if you want, but this is a comment box, i will not be transcribing his speeches for you for free .

  • Thank you, Mr. McKenna, for all the great photos you have provided. And thank you, Kym, for keeping us all informed. Many prayers being sent up for the firefighters and those living/owning property in this area and the Carr Fire area, too.

  • Terrific photos! Praying the fire fighters will get a handle on these breathing monsters before too much longer. Everyone please stay safe.

  • Fantastic Photos

  • Maybe our taxes could go for a few less agencies and lot more infrastructure, bridge repair, roads, water storage etc. California doesn’t use my tax money in any way even close to how I would spend my own home budget

  • Do you know where our water bond money went? Yet water bonds are going to be on the ballot again.
    I did hear Sacramento is getting a reservoir.

    Why a 100 million for a train to no where? I wish that went into water storage.

    • Ah but water storage is one of those issues that the State of California politicians like Brown do (remember tunneks in which Northern California gets to pay for more of it’s water to be diverted) while complaining when Trump said the same thing. When politics gets down to taking utter two faced statement seriously, how can the people making them be respected at all? There are idiots around but a whole lot of them are busy cal!ing other people idiots.

  • Thanks Kym,

    I’m building a recent (~4 years) Lake Co Fire history map. I’ll send it to you when Ranch is out.

    Unfortunately, the current KMZ link for the Mendo Complex heat map goes to a big pdf(?), not a KML file.
    Please post the KMZ link if you have it?


  • I know many have said it but great reporting Kym.

  • Wonderful coverage and photos
    as usual.

    They need controlled burns (as the native Americans
    did) or some selective logging; as a preventative.

  • Nature bats last…..

  • Those cows look seriously p$$ed off.

  • great photos and earth maps. Thank you Mark and Kym!

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