California’s largest fire ever — keeps growing… Smoky air blankets region

California’s largest fire ever keeps growing as winds fan flames

The largest fire in California history continued to grow Thursday while firefighters worked to protect threatened communities.

Crews are on especially high alert this week after a firefighter who traveled from Draper City, Utah, to help battle the blaze died Monday while working on an active stretch.

“We always talk about having our head on a swivel when we’re out on the fire line, because things could change — it could happen right there, in a snap of your fingers,” said Trevor Pappas, a firefighter with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “You have to have plan A, B, C, D — and sometimes E, F, G.”

Every five or 10 minutes, firefighters on the line are encouraged to “look up, look around and make a sound,” Pappas said.

Conditions have been ripe for the erratic fire behavior that has led to the explosive growth of the Ranch fire, which along with the River fire makes up the 364,145-acre Mendocino Complex fire. The days are so hot and dry that whatever gains firefighters see overnight when the humidity goes up quickly fade when the sun hits the fuels and sucks the moisture out. Lately, winds have started to pick up about 5 p.m., gusting to between 15 and 25 mph.

Unhealthy smoky air blankets Northwest

SEATTLE (AP) — Unhealthy air filled with smoke from wildfires blanketed the Northwest again on Wednesday.

Washington state had the worst air quality in the country, according to the National Weather Service.

In the central Washington cities of Chelan and Wenatchee the air quality Wednesday reached the hazardous level, prompting Chelan County officials to distribute masks.

The smoke reached levels that were unhealthy for everyone in Seattle and nearby areas, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency said.

At Seattle’s Kerry Park which usually offers picture-perfect views visitors were disappointed to find parts of Puget Sound hidden behind the smoke.

“In an ideal world, we would want to be able to see Mount Rainier in the background so the haze is basically killing that opportunity, unfortunately,” Aidan Groll of Florida told KING-TV.

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