A lack of communication, coordination and a rivalry between state and federal fire agencies left a firefighting crew running for their lives and suffering burns and other injuries in the Mendocino Complex, the state’s largest-ever fire, an investigatory report concludes.
The report paints a chaotic scene deep in the Mendocino National Forest, where 22 firefighters were trapped when the wind shifted and the fire exploded as they burned off vegetation to help stop its spread. Most were able to get to their vehicles and flee but six were forced to run through an unburned area for a mile before they were picked up.
Some tripped, fell or were caught up on debris as they ran from approaching flames through thick smoke that turned the daytime skies dark as night. At least one thought they wouldn’t make it out alive.