Evacuations orders in place due to massive Mendocino Complex Fires

Firefighters battle the Ranch Fire near Upper Lake California

Aon's Impact Forecasting explained, "The July 2018 fires in California follow what was the costliest year ever recorded for the insurance industry with the wildfire peril in 2017".

"This catastrophe hits very close to home for some of the Alameda County Firefighters Local 55 because some of its members came to the ACFD after working for the Redding Fire Department", the association said on the GoFundMe site.

Its size overtook the deadly Carr Fire, about 100 miles (160 km) to the northeast, which is among 18 significant wildfires burning across California and 106 nationwide.

As these fires grow in frequency and severity, the state's cost to fight them is also increasing - dramatically.

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"Unstable conditions, shifting winds, steep terrain and dry fuels continue to challenge firefighters", a state fire update warned, noting that 35-mph wind gusts were expected on ridgetops that could whip up the flames. The forecast included extremely low humidity levels that leave vegetation ready to burn.

California fire officials said Saturday that the two fires about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of San Francisco were 27 percent contained and have grown to nearly 250 square miles (648 kilometers). The twirling tower of flame reached speeds of 143 miles per hour (230 kph), which rivaled some of the most destructive Midwest tornados, National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said.

The Carr Fire is 39% contained, but firefighters are reinforcing fire breaks to prevent strong, erratic winds from causing it to flare up again this weekend. Six people, including two firefighters, have died and the fire has destroyed 1060 homes and almost 500 other buildings, including barns and warehouses, making it the sixth most destructive wildfire in California history, state fire officials said.

A firefighter walks around a swimming pool sprayed by phos-chek fire retardant after an air tanker made a pass while fighting a wildfire near Lakeport, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018.

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The heat of wildfires can sometimes create short-lived "fire whirls", and at first, experts were reluctant to call the Redding fire column a tornado.

Dykema said the whirl uprooted trees and tore roofs from home.

In the Sierra Nevada, firefighters achieved 41 percent containment of a 115-square-mile (298-square-kilometer) forest fire that has shut down Yosemite Valley and other adjacent portions of Yosemite National Park at what is normally the height of summer tourism. Varney's radio wasn't communicating with headquarters, so his assistant relayed messages - until they lost contact.

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