Mendocino Complex Fire 30 percent contained, 41 homes destroyed

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A massive, out-of-control Northern California wildfire that destroyed 68 homes and forced thousands to flee has become the fifth largest in state history, officials said on Sunday, as crews battled high temperatures and strong winds.

PG&E Corporation confirmed on Sunday that 21-year-old apprentice lineman, Jay Ayeta, died when his vehicle crashed in western Shasta County as he worked with crews in unsafe terrain to battle the almost two-week-old Carr Fire.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials said that fire was started two weeks ago by sparks from the steel wheel of a towed-trailer's flat tire.

More than 4,200 firefighters have been deployed to battle the conflagration but they have only succeeded in containing 41 percent of it so far.

The Lake and Mendocino county fires, known as the Mendocino Complex, have destroyed 55 structures and continue to threaten thousands more, burning through more than 200,000 acres and leading to 18,000 residents being evacuated.

Experts say a deadly Northern California wildfire burned so hot at its peak that it created a cyclone of flames that reached 143 miles per hour, ripping through the region with the force of a destructive Midwest tornado. Another 9,000 buildings are threatened.

More residents were ordered to evacuate their homes this weekend as tired firefighters endured high temperatures and gusting winds.

"Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-priced loans to cover uninsured property loses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster", the White House said.

The weather service issued warnings for critical fire weather conditions into Saturday, saying a series of dry low-pressure systems passing through the region would bring afternoon wind gusts.

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After visiting some of the fire-ravaged areas on Saturday, California Gov.

The fire remained several miles from the evacuated communities along the eastern shore of Clear Lake but "it looks like there's dicey weather on the way", California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Jane LaBoa said. An eighth fire-related death occurred in the Ferguson Fire, east of San Jose, when Capt. Brian Hughes of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshot Crew was killed.

Shasta County, in Northern California, is the site of the deadly Carr Fire, which reportedly claimed a seventh victim on Saturday.

The fire burned slowly for days before winds suddenly whipped it up last week and drove it furiously through brush and timber.

US President Donald Trump declared a "major disaster" in California and ordered federal funding to be made available to help recovery efforts, the White House said in a statement on Sunday.

He says fire whirls are common, but not at the intensity recorded on July 26.

Hundreds of colleagues, family and friends attended a memorial service Saturday in Fresno for National Forest Service Capt. Brian Hughes. The whirl uprooted trees and tore roofs from homes, Dykema said.

The National Park Service says that parts of Yosemite National Park will remain closed indefinitely because of growing fires in areas near and on the park.

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