Inside the Mendocino Complex Fire Evacuation Zone

We drove roughly 50 miles along Highway 20, from the firefighters’ base camp to the town of Clearlake Oaks, while the region was still under a mandatory evacuation order.


Comments: 26

  1. Modern fire suppression has been very successful at corralling the fierce onslaught. The wild terrain with numerous hills and canyons is immense by comparison to the edge fought. Cheers for the firefighters and those who embrace their chosen life. All to together we must corral climate change, like steering a giant ship at sea. This is the fight for all of our lives everywhere. The edge is growing.

  2. The deniers are out in full force.

  3. Oh, the tenacity. And those who stay are not only the stubborn ones, but those who stand to lose everything, as if staying will somehow magically avert the flames. Where do you go, anyway? To a tent city somewhere, a homeless shelter, a place under a bridge? With such poor choices, I would stay, too.

  4. Where is the rest of the article. The trip just got started.

  5. This fire is three weeks old and still growing. In reply, California authorities talk about climate change. Meanwhile, I've got ash on my deck which is over 100 miles from the fire. The air has smelled like a campfire for over three weeks. In states where both political parties remain alive and vibrant, the conversation would be about getting the fires put out fast, especially in an election year.

  6. How do you fight a 300,000 acre fire in an area that’s in drought four months of the year? @Al, is there something you think politicians should be doing to put out this 300,000 acre fire, something they’re not already doing? Talking about climate change seems about right to me.
    Last year there were similar, significant fires in Oregon, California, and British Columbia. Smoke from the B.C. fires spread well over a 100 mile radius and kept Vancouver in smoke so thick you couldn’t see your shadow for two weeks. I was visiting and when I left my plane was in the air for an hour before I could see where the smoke ended. Trees in the forest had died because of a certain kind of beetle. The beetles used to die off in winter, but now the winters aren’t cold enough to kill them and the beetle population exploded. Acres of fuel for forest fires all due to climate change.

  7. Thinking of you all back here in New England. Praying to the rain gods for relief.

  8. @Jax Alas the California rain gods always spend the summer on vacation in New England. No matter how wet the winter, it never rains from June to September. By now the woods are dry, every year.

  9. It's hard not to agree with these rough and tumble folk - perhaps the government should leave them alone, just like millions of years ago when things were Great.

    Seriously though, at what point is a place not worth saving? $100,000 in fire 'containment' per resident per year? One million?

  10. @Eric Based on the Governor's CalFire budget proposal and the population of California, the answer appears to be $45 per resident - 1.8 billion dollars spread over 40 million residents.

  11. @Eric
    What's even more baffling is when the climate deniers use geological time lines, and forget that according to their god, the universe was created 10,000 years ago.

  12. Many of us look at the daily CalFire reports on the Mendocino Complex Fire with the words: "Cause: Under investigation", and wonder...

  13. We lived in this area for eight years. It is incredibly beautiful. Old logging is a big part of the problem. They hauled out the logs, but left all the slash. That adds a huge amount of fuel to the fire. Unfortunately, the remaining old growth forest are now going up as well. Normally fires would just burn the under growth an not the big trees. Sad.

  14. I live in Lucerne, CA, a short distance from the "municipal pier" (it's actually just a viewing and picnic area, not a pier; the actual pier is at the harbor a few blocks farther on) and my partner grows grain on his own property and several leases in Upper Lake. We evacuated, although my partner says next time he'll stay. We often shop and get deli sandwiches at the Lynches' Hiway Grocery in UL; how fun to see them in the NYT
    I just want to add my praises and support for the firefighters; it's a cliche until you see how they've saved your town and your property. Now it's real!
    So is climate change, with all due respect to Mr. Lynch. True, there may have been mega-fires in the past, and the earth has gone through many cycles of extreme weather both hot and cold, but there's mountains of evidence that humanity is contributing significantly to the current situation. You would think that if Nature makes things difficult, we would at least want to do what we can to lessen our own contribution to the impact, but no, people use Nature's vagaries as an excuse to go on doing what they're doing.
    We are killing ourselves. I'm 74 so, OK, gotta go some time (but later, rather than sooner). But what about the young people, the kids, the babies? And the wildlife, and all the glories of Nature that we are taking with us.

  15. My family visited this area just a few years ago. So pristine and lovely. So sad to see the fires destruction. Why are we going into a climatic tailspin?

  16. Fire is natural to wild lands but the frequency and extent of fires in the west have become catastrophic. The fires burn so hot that they leave little to grow afterwards and so extensive that it will take decades for the plants animals destroyed to be restored, if ever. The role of climate change is clearly what makes it so bad. Denying climate change is just inane.

    It is ironic that it is in rural areas where so many who deny climate change and have utter contempt for environmental concerns who are witnessing the effects but who totally deny it.

  17. @Casual Observer And I find it even more ironic that those who support climate change don't see that allowing the forest to become overgrown with brush and too many trees deny the effects of that philosophy. The forests need to be managed.

  18. The energy released by fire is intense. A burning tree scorches at fifty yards. A hillside of sage brush burning can produce an immense swirling pillar of fire. Growing up and living in California has taught me to appreciate the destructive power of wild fires and how difficult it is to control it. I have seen fires started by small engines on bikes, lightening, fire works, and other careless human acts as well as arson. I have seen too many nice homes a beautiful natural places turned ash to like fire much.

  19. As a native Californian, 63 years, I don't remember fire season affecting our quality of life until 10 years ago, when dry lightening ignited over 1000 fires all over the state. It was smoky for a month and there was no getting away from it. I love my state and it breaks my heart to see what drought and increased temperatures are doing to it.
    I can only hope that, sooner than later, we get a new administration and rejoin the global effort to stop climate change. I am proud of our Governor Jerry Brown for leading the fight against global warming.

  20. @Susan What is your plan if energy usage is sharply curtailed (rationed!), the world economy is plunged into a deep economic recession and hundreds of millions (billions) of poor begin to starve? Those who crusade should first get an understanding of how much energy it takes each day to "get this world up and running". And if you want to keep it running, they take a hard look at using nukes for power generation because solar and wind "ain't gonna make it".

  21. Since Mr. and Mrs. Lynch apparently hate the government, maybe they prefer to pay their share for the firefighters and equipment that saved their town.

  22. @Susan Shalit Where in the article does it say the Lynchs' "hate" the government?? They are small businesses owners who pay more than their fair share in taxes to support the "fire fighters and equipment."

  23. With the continuity of the fires the region might become similar to Los Angeles County rather than the woodland.
    The loss of fauna, wildlife, domestic animals, home, and a national treasure is heartbreaking. Praises to the firefighters, and the generous people sharing food, etc.

  24. FYI Tri State residents,

    Tom McClintock R-CA 4th was one of the many republicans who voted against super storm sandy relief.

    The Donnell fire is in his district.

    Anyone want to take a bet that he will request federal funds/bailout for his district?

  25. 50 years of fire suppression in CA and western US is partly to blame for these fires. This land is suppose to burn, some of the plants in the area actually thrive and reproduce better after a fire. Many of the trees actually survive these fires as the photos demonstrate. We will continue to see large scale fires in CA and the west as forest and scrub density is higher than it probably ever has been due to decades of fire suppression. Though I feel for the victims and property loss, this is a natural cycle to some extent, exacerbated by a triple whammy of fire suppression, drought and adverse climate conditions.

  26. Other commenters have covered climate change and forest management, so I want to comment on the people and their attitudes. Living in an area susceptible to hurricanes, we have been subject to "mandatory" evacuation many times over the years. Some stay to "save/protect their homes," and this would be humorous if it weren't truly sad. Mother Nature is a strong, remorseless, undeniable force, and you are but grit in her eye. Go, for heaven's sake, and let the firefighters do their jobs without having to pluck you out at the 11th hour. Please don't state you "don't like being told what to do," but then expect government relief when you lose everything. Exasperating.....