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Battle to contain the Mendocino Complex rages

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Firefighters continued to battle the Ranch fire deep in the Mendocino National Forest Sunday, maintaining containment at 76 percent even as the fire charred another 6,000 acres.

The northernmost of the two fires that make up the Mendocino Complex, now the largest fire in state history, remains active in Mendocino, Lake, Colusa and Glenn counties, Cal Fire officials said Sunday night. Steep, inaccessible terrain, afternoon winds, and low humidity are making the blaze difficult to fully contain, said Daron Wyatt, a public information officer.

Wyatt said he has seen recent photos of some of the 3,500 firefighters assigned to the fire scrambling along hillsides with 60 percent slopes, so steep they needed to pull themselves up by their fire hoses.

“They are working really, really hard out there, but these are some very challenging conditions,” Wyatt said.

The Ranch fire now stands at 341,047 acres. The River fire, which was fully contained Aug. 13, was halted at 48,920 acres. The total acreage of the complex is now 389,967, with a combined containment of 79 percent.

Smoke from the fire continues to blanket Sonoma County in a dull haze. That’s due largely to an inversion layer hanging around later into the day than normal, Wyatt said.

The Mendocino Complex fires have destroyed 157 homes and some 120 structures since they broke out a month ago.

One firefighter, Matt Burchett, a battalion chief with the Draper Fire Department in Utah, was killed battling the Ranch fire, and two others have been injured.

Full containment is still expected by Sept. 1.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.

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