Amid unfavorable weather conditions, the Ranch fire continued its march away from populated areas and into the Mendocino National Forest Saturday after consuming another 3,000 acres, Cal Fire said.
Still, containment in the Mendocino Complex fires, the largest in state history, increased to 67 percent by Saturday night, Cal Fire said. The fires have now burned a total of 328,226 acres, or 513 square miles, with more than 3,500 firefighters working to quell the flames, Cal Fire said.
Damage assessment crews surveying the fire zones noted Saturday morning that an additional 39 homes and buildings were found destroyed or damaged, Cal Fire said.
The inferno has now consumed 139 homes and 119 other structures, while 13 homes and 24 other structures have been damaged, Cal Fire said Saturday night.
More than 1,500 structures are threatened, far fewer than the 9,000 structures considered at risk Friday.
Winds were expected to weaken today after three consecutive days of red flag weather conditions, the National Weather Service said.
Crews battled the fire in steep, rugged terrain and temperatures up to 100 degrees Saturday as the Ranch fire remained active in its northwest corner near Potter Valley in Mendocino County and its northeast corner near Lodoga in Colusa County, said Derek Tisinger, a Cal Fire spokesman.
Some cooling of daytime temperatures was predicted for today, but officials were waiting to see what effect it would have in the area of the wildfires.
Heavy smoke and rough terrain limited firefighters’ ability to find their way to a direct attack on the fire front, officials said. The northern front remains a priority and the air attack will continue as visibility and weather permit, Cal Fire said.
“They’ve made really good progress on this thing and the threat is going lower and lower unless something drastically changes, which is not predicted,” Cal Fire spokesman Will Powers said.
The Ranch fire, the larger of the two blazes, grew to 279,306 acres Saturday night, Cal Fire said, with containment at 58 percent.
The River fire west of Clear Lake remained at almost 49,000 acres, with containment at 92 percent, Cal Fire said. No fire movement was reported Saturday.
Full containment of the Mendocino Complex was expected Sept. 1.
The cause of both fires remains under investigation, Cal Fire said.
You can reach Staff Writer Hannah Beausang at 707-521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @hannahbeausang. You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or email@example.com. On Twitter @guykovner.