The Latest: Progress made on California’s largest wildfire

The Latest on California wildfires (all times local):

8 p.m.

Firefighters are making progress against the largest California wildfire ever recorded although thousands of homes and buildings remain under threat.

State fire officials Wednesday night say the Mendocino Complex — twin fires that are being fought together — has destroyed 119 homes and 472 square miles (1,222 square kilometers) of brush and timber north of San Francisco.

The complex is 47 percent contained. However, the smaller of the two blazes actually is 81 percent surrounded. Fire crews have kept the southern edge from spreading. Authorities lifted mandatory evacuation orders for most communities near the resort of Clear Lake.

Meanwhile, a fire that destroyed more than 1,000 homes in and around Redding in Northern California remains 47 percent surrounded.

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6 p.m.

It’s unclear if there will be any practical effect of the Trump administration’s directive to prioritize California water for fire-fighting over protecting endangered species.

The directive from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross tells the National Marine Fisheries Service to make clear that protecting life and property “takes precedence” over other water use agreements in California.

But state fire officials say they don’t need more water to fight the fires raging across the state. Neither federal nor state officials said if direct action was being taken in response.

Mike Mohler, deputy director for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, says he doesn’t know if the Trump administration had contacted any California state agencies before issuing Wednesday’s directive.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s office and state water officials directed questions to Mohler.

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4:40 p.m.

Northern California officials are contending with a norovirus outbreak at a wildfire evacuation shelter.

Lake County Public Health Director Denise Pomeroy said Wednesday that 20 to 30 people had shown symptoms of the virus in the last 48 hours. The airborne bug causes diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramps.

Officials are taking steps to separate those who have shown symptoms from others at the shelter and hired a company to clean and disinfect inside. Additional handwashing stations also were set up.

Pomeroy says about 150 to 175 people were at the shelter in Lower Lake High School on Tuesday night. Many were leaving Wednesday as officials lifted more evacuations.

About 1,500 people remain under evacuation orders as firefighters battle the largest wildfire recorded in California history, called the Mendocino Complex.

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3:10 p.m.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has directed the National Marine Fisheries Service to prioritize water use in California for fire-fighting, potentially overriding its use to protect endangered species.

“The protection of life and property takes precedence over any current agreements regarding the use of water in the areas of California affected by wildfires,” Ross said in a statement. “Going forward, the Department … (is) committed to finding new solutions to address threatened and endangered species in the context of the challenging water management situation in California.”

The directive follows a tweet by President Trump on Sunday that blamed the severity of California’s wildfires partly on its water management policies.

State experts disputed the charge. The fires are in hills far from the Pacific Ocean and from the man-made storage and distribution system that transports water from the wetter, northern part of the state to the southern part.

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2:15 p.m.

Evacuations have been ordered for several small mountain communities near where a forest fire continues to grow in Southern California.

Authorities said Wednesday that a 51-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with the blaze in the Cleveland National Forest south of Los Angeles.

The fire sparked Monday has blackened nearly 10 square miles (26 square kilometers) of dry brush and timber. A dozen cabins have burned and several rural canyons are under new mandatory evacuation orders. Officials didn’t immediately know how many people are affected. The fire’s just 5 percent contained.

The flames gained renewed strength Wednesday, sending up thick smoke that officials say is creating unhealthy conditions in some neighborhoods.

About 385 firefighters are working in steep terrain amid sweltering temperatures.

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12:30 p.m.

Authorities have lifted mandatory evacuation orders for most lakeside communities impacted by the largest blaze in California history.

Lake County Lt. Corey Paulich says the majority of residents along the shores of Clear Lake in Northern California were allowed to return home Wednesday.

About 19,000 people were displaced during the peak of the blaze that started on July 27 and continues to burn in Mendocino, Lake and Colusa Counties

Paulich says about 1,500 people, mainly in his county’s Spring Valley area, remain under evacuation orders.

He says fire officials are confident with the containment lines they have managed to cut around half the Mendocino Complex fire burning about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of San Francisco.

The twin blazes have charred 470 square miles (1,217 square kilometers).

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12:10 p.m.

Police have arrested a man in connection with a Southern California wildfire that has burned 12 cabins and led to some evacuations.

Officials at the Cleveland National Forest say 51-year-old Forrest Gordon Clark was booked Wednesday on suspicion of two counts of felony arson, and one count each of felony threat to terrorize and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

It’s unclear whether he has an attorney.

Clark is being held on a $1 million bail and is set to appear in court Thursday.

He was arrested in connection with the so-called Holy Fire, which has burned more than 6 square miles (15 square kilometers) in the Santa Ana Mountains.

More details about Clark’s arrest are set to be released at a 2 p.m. news conference.

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9:15 a.m.

A smoky Southern California forest fire is raging in mostly unoccupied land but firefighting crews are concerned the flames could race down hillsides toward foothill communities.

The blaze churning through the Cleveland National Forest south of Los Angeles is just 5 percent contained Wednesday morning.

Flames that erupted Monday have blackened nearly 6-and-a-half square miles (17 square kilometers) of dry brush and timber. Several cabins have burned and two rural canyons and some campgrounds have been evacuated.

No homes are immediately threatened but some residents have voluntarily evacuated. Officials warn that thick smoke blanketing neighborhoods is creating unhealthy conditions.

About 385 firefighters are working in rugged terrain amid scorching temperatures with help from 10 helicopters and 7 fixed-wing aircraft.

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7:15 a.m.

California fire officials say they expect to gain control of the biggest blaze in state history in September.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Wednesday the blaze burning near Clear Lake in Northern California has destroyed 116 homes since it started on July 27. It is threatening another 10,000.

The agency also says two firefighters were injured but provided no details.

Experts say California is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into the forests.

The massive Mendocino Complex fire of twin blazes burning side-by-side expanded even more overnight to nearly 470 square miles (1,217 square kilometers).

More than 4,000 firefighters battling the blaze have contained 47 percent of it.

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This version corrects that firefighters have contained 47 percent of the twin blazes, not one third.

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12:00 a.m.

California could be facing the toughest wildfire season ever as some 18 gigantic blazes ravage the state — and the historically worst months are still to come.

Some 14,000 firefighters are battling fires that have destroyed more than 1,000 homes and claimed six lives thanks to wind-whipped flames that have caused an explosive spread through vegetation left tinder-dry by years of drought.

Mark Hartwig of the California Fire Chiefs Association says fires are burning more intensely and quickly than before.

California’s largest recorded blaze — the side-by-side fires dubbed the Mendocino Complex — needed just 11 days to blacken an area nearly the size of Los Angeles.

A deadly fire that destroyed more than 1,000 homes in the Redding area of Northern California is less than 50 percent contained.

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