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New Evacuations Ordered In Mendocino Complex Fire As Battle Continues

LAKE COUNTY (CBS SF) -- New evacuation orders were issued in connection with the Mendocino Complex Fire Thursday, according to authorities.

The Lake County Sheriffs Department updated the mandatory evacuation orders in the western part of the county.

All residents of Blue Lakes, Upper Lake, Nice, Lakeport, Wittier Springs, Bachelor Valley, Scotts Valley, and Sarasota Springs were ordered to evacuate at around 9 a.m. Thursday.

At noon, some of the mandatory evacuations for the western edge of the fire along Mid Mountain Road and Pine Avenue in Potter Valley were reduced to evacuation warnings, though the public was advised to stay vigilant of fire conditions.

Despite those orders, crews have made significant progress on the two fires.

Thanks to successful back fire operations, the River Fire and Ranch Fire burning in Lake and Mendocino counties are now closer to being contained.

The latest update from Cal Fire shows the River Fire burning near Lakeport is now 35,278 acres in size and 50 percent contained, while the Ranch Fire north of Upper Lake is nearly 75,000 acres and 33 percent contained.

Cal Fire is hoping crews can make still more progress before the weather turns against firefighters.

The National Weather Service has issued a red-flag warning for the Mendocino Complex Fire area beginning at 11 a.m Friday and running through 11 p.m. Saturday.

Meanwhile, in Redding more evacuated residents were allowed to return home now that the Carr Fire is 50 percent contained.

It is now the sixth most destructive wildfire in state history with six people dead and more than 1,000 homes destroyed.

"We're all close-knit community here. And it's just brokenhearted, you know?" said Redding resident Gary Nunn.

Near Yosemite, the Ferguson fire is now 39 percent contained.

Two firefighters have died battling the blaze, including 36-year-old Braden Varney, a bulldozer operator trying to cut a fire line in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest.

A newly released report shows Varney was out of radio contact for more than four hours before a firefighting pilot spotted his dozer at the bottom of a cliff.

The report also questioned whether basic safety protocols were followed immediately before Varney's death.

Dozers are an important part of the firefighting effort, but are frequently used at night when temperatures cool down and winds are typically calmer. Unfortunately, while it is actually the safest time for crews to get near the fire to cut fire lines that are so critical, reduced visibility means there is still a significant risk for operators.

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