After one month the Ranch Fire has burned over 400,000 acres

It is one of four megafires currently burning in the U.S., all larger than 100,000 acres

(Originally published at 9:32 a.m. PDT August 27, 2018)

The Ranch Fire started east of Ukiah, California a month ago on July 27, 2018. About two weeks later it broke the previous record for the largest in California’s recorded history, the 281,893 acres attributed to last December’s Thomas Fire near Santa Barbara. Today CAL FIRE said the Ranch Fire has grown to 402,468 acres, exceeding by 120,575 acres the record set only eight months earlier. The other fire in the Complex is the 49,920-acre River Fire which has not spread for a couple of weeks.

Mendocino Complex fire Ranch California map
The red line on the map was the perimeter of the Ranch Fire at 9:15 p.m. PDT August 26, 2016. The white line was the perimeter on August 14. The red and yellow dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hour period ending at 2:31 a.m. PDT August 27, 2018. Click to enlarge.

Firefighters are making progress on the Ranch Fire after having backed off on the north and northeast sides to ignite backfires from dirt roads and dozer lines on ridge tops in the Mendocino National Forest. The rest of the fire is looking pretty good, so if this tactic is successful and the weather cooperates it would be a big step toward stopping the spread.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Mendocino Complex of Fires, including the most recent, click HERE.)

A couple of decades ago it was rare for a fire outside of Alaska to exceed the threshold to become what we call a megafire, 100,000 acres. Now we seem to have multiple megafires each year. Presently there are three others that are presently active in the lower 48 states:

  1. Carr, in Northern California: 229,651 acres
  2. South Sugarloaf, in northern Nevada: 200,692 acres
  3. Spring Creek, in southern Colorado: 108,085 acres

Fire seasons are longer. The U.S. Forest Service has abandoned the term, preferring “fire year” instead. The Thomas Fire broke the previous record in December. DECEMBER! Megafires are not supposed to occur in the dead of winter.

Not only do the fires burn vegetation, destroy homes, change the landscape, require evacuations, disrupt lives, and cause massive air pollution problems, they also kill. Just on the megafires in California this year eight people have died, four firefighters, a power company employee, and three other civilians.

The article was revised to correct the number of fatalities on the two megafires in California this year.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

5 thoughts on “After one month the Ranch Fire has burned over 400,000 acres”

  1. Again all Bill cares about is acres burned not how fire is a vital part of landscapes across the USA. Aggressive fire suppression is not the solution. It is the problem. Let’s all think about that.

    1. James: It all depends on if the “landscape” is a fire dependent or independent ecosystem. Main reason places like the deserts of Arizona burn is due to exotic non indigenous species. So far is good in the proper place and not so good in others.

  2. Forgot to add that on all the mega fires there have been more fatalities than you listed. The Carr fire had 3 firefighter fatalities, 3 civilians and 1 utility worker and the Mendocino complex has had 1 firefighter fatality as well. Sadly that is a total of 8 lives lost.

  3. I believe there have been a few other ‘mega fires’ this year that received minimal press and are no longer active fires:
    – Martin in Nevada, adjacent to South Sugarloaf .
    – Goose Creek on Nevada/Utah border
    – Grassy Ridge in ID came up about 800 acres short
    – Boxcar 0410 RN in northern Oregon
    – the long Hollow and Substation fires shared a short edge and combined they burned over 100,000, also in Oregon, very near the Boxcar.

    Wasn’t sure if your reference was just for active fires, but wanted to show how crazy things have been.


Comments are closed.