This summer has already seen some of the most extreme weather of all time. Several countries have been hit by wildfires, flash floods and droughts, with some facing devastating death tolls. The future looks fiery and dangerous.
The Mendocino Complex fire has already engulfed 290,692 acres (117,639 hectares) – almost the size of Los Angeles.
Barely a third of it is under control, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Firefighters are tackling 18 major blazes across the state amid strong winds and low humidity.
The fire – which comprises two blazes in the state’s north – was declared the biggest in California’s history on Monday.
Officials had set a target to extinguish the fire by mid-August, but they now say they will need until early September.
The fire is raging through a largely rural area, but it has burned 75 buildings and led to thousands of evacuations.
A separate blaze – the Carr fire, further north – has killed at least seven people and destroyed more than 1,500 structures. Burning through almost 160,000 acres, it was 47% contained by late Monday.
Meanwhile, more fires have been breaking out, adding to the mammoth workload of fire crews. At least 14,000 firefighters are struggling to contain the multiple outbreaks.
Fire crews from Australia and New Zealand have also joined the firefight to share their expertise in battling bush fires. Firefighters told the LA Times about their grueling schedule. One said his crew had slept – sitting up – in the seats of their fire engine on some nights.
“It’s been pretty crazy – they’re calling this the new norm,” said Omar Estorga, captain of a crew working on the Carr fire. “In years past, there were one or two big fires a year. Now they’re doing three to four huge fires in a week.”
Over the weekend, dry and hot weather allowed the Mendocino Complex fire to make extraordinary gains, jumping across at least four creeks and one major road.
A protective fire line – where bulldozers had cut through vegetation to create a barrier – also failed to hold it back.
The LA Times said any one of these obstacles could stop a fire, but the bone-dry landscape was being fanned by shifting winds. As the flame moved in different directions, it was hard to predict and impossible to contain.