Of the 34,000 acres burning in Northern California's Mendocino Lake Complex, only 10% of the fire is considered "contained," Cal Fire said in its most recent update on the area Friday morning. An estimated 250 homes have been destroyed in the area, officials say.
Related: Northern CA Wildfire Death Count Hits 31; Official Count Of Santa Rosa Homes Burned Rises To 2,834
The fires, presently referred to by officials as the Redwood and Potter Fires, are burning in the area "North of Hwy 20, west of Mendocino National Forest, south of Black Bart," Cal Fire says.
At least eight of the 31 people that have so far been confirmed dead in the Northern California wildfires were victims of those blazes, CBS 5 reports. That number is expected to grow as crews continue the search for victims in the rubble. As with all the fires burning in this massive swarm of blazes, firefighters tilting at the Redwood/Potter fires are "battling shifting winds as they fought to gain control of the flames."
And though ten percent seems like a small number, it's progress — Thursday afternoon, Cal Fire said via a statement that only five percent of the Redwood and Potter Fires had been contained, making this 5 percent gain something to appreciate.
As of Friday, Cal Fire says, "Damage Inspection Teams have completed damage inspections for the Sulphur Incident and are continuing to survey for damaged and destroyed structures throughout the Redwood Fire."
As with all the fires burning up north, the Redwood and Potter Fires continue "to burn in multiple directions threatening numerous communities and infrastructure," Cal Fire says. So far, 8000 residents have been evacuated in the area.
In one of their many excellent human-focused reports from the fires, Chron reporters Trisha Thadani and John King say that McCarty’s Bar, a bar located in Redwood Valley, has turned into an "informal evacuation center for people displaced by the Mendocino County fires."
“It’s bringing people together through tragedy,” said bartender Crystal Maples, who opened the doors at 2:30 a.m. Monday after sprinting away from the flames that had erupted in Potter Valley.
The scene in this locally owned establishment — where people are sleeping on air mattresses on the dance floor and in RVs parked outside — captures how a close-knit piece of Mendocino has persevered in the face of a fire that after four days refuses to fade.
The community has been having regular meetings at Ukiah High School, with the next one scheduled for today at 6:30, Cal Fire says. Thursday's meeting was standing room only, the Chron reports, with over 200 folks impacted by the Redwood, Potter, and Sulfur Fires (the latter a much smaller fire "off Hwy 20 and Sulphur Bank Road, Clearlake Oaks" Cal Fire says, that has burned 2500 acres and is 55 percent contained as of Friday morning) in attendance.
When county Sheriff Tom Allman asked if the audience had any questions, many hands shot up: When can we go back home? When will the extent of the evacuation area be reduced?
“I hear you loud and clear,” Allman said. But “what we don’t want to do is put people back in and then have to evacuate them again.”
While the high school meetings are useful for dissemination of important information, McCarty’s appears to be where it's at in Mendocino, where even "After closing time, Maples and a dozen or more fire evacuees would head to the dance floor, where several air mattresses, blankets and pillows were ready."
“People are wanting to stay close to home,” owner Karen McCarty tells the Chron. “At a bar, you can get camaraderie that you don’t get at Ukiah High School.”
And for now, things might be looking up: Cal Fire said Friday morning that "Firefighters utilized favorable weather conditions to their advantage today, across both fires, towards achieving containment and providing structure defense."
But don't relax yet. The Chron reports that "a forecast of heavy winds for the weekend meant that the fire could double back over places that have already been hit hard — like Redwood Valley." Cal Fire also emphasized the struggles they face, saying Friday that "steep inaccessible terrain coupled with critical fuel moistures and northwest winds will provide challenges for crews working on the fire. We ask the public to exercise caution and remember to be prepared to evacuate when asked."