LAKEPORT, Calif./LISBON (Dispatches) -- California’s biggest wildfire on record was expected to burn for the rest of the month, fire officials said Tuesday, as hot and windy conditions challenged thousands of fire crews battling eight major blazes burning out of control across the state.
The Mendocino Complex grew to span over 117,000 hectares – approximately the size of Los Angeles – by Tuesday morning, with barely a third of it contained since two wildfires merged at the southern tip of the Mendocino National Forest, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.
Meanwhile, Europe’s scorching heat wave has killed nine people in a week in Spain, health authorities said, as stifling temperatures kindled wildfires in the country and neighboring Portugal where a ferocious blaze encircled a resort town.
The Mendocino Complex fire north of San Francisco has been less destructive to property than some of the other wildfires in the state because it is mostly raging in remote areas. But officials say it threatens 11,300 buildings and some new evacuations were ordered over the weekend as the flames spread.
Hotter weather attributed to climate change is drying out vegetation, creating more intense fires that spread quickly from rural areas to city subdivisions, climate and fire experts say. But they also blame cities and towns that are expanding housing into previously undeveloped areas.
Over 14,000 firefighters are battling more than a dozen major blazes throughout California, state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean said. "I can remember a couple of years ago when we saw 10 to 12,000 firefighters in the states of California, Oregon and Washington and never the 14,000 we see now,” he said.
In Europe, weeks of nonstop sunshine and near-record temperatures have caused droughts and seen tinder-dry forests consumed by wildfires from the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle, in what many fear could be the region’s new normal in an era of climate change.
The devastating effects of the heat wave were visible from space, according to images of swaths of arid landscape taken by the German astronaut Alexander Gerst from the International Space Station.
"After several weeks of night flying, I was able to take the first day pictures of central Europe and Germany. The sight is shocking. Everything that should be green is parched and brown,” Gerst said on Twitter.
While the deadly hot spell is expected to ease in parts of Western Europe in the coming days, firefighters in Spain and Portugal struggled to contain wildfires that have swept southern areas.
In the southern Portuguese holiday region, residents and tourists have been evacuated from around an Algarve resort town as fire crews struggled to extinguish wildfires that have raged for days leaving 30 people injured, one seriously.