Thousands of residents of several Clear Lake communities now can go home.
Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted late Wednesday morning for residents of Upper Lake, Nice, Lucerne, Pepperwood Grove, Paradise Valey, Glenhaven and Clearlake Oaks.
Highway 20 in both directions also is open, as well as all lanes, east and westbound off the highway, according to a release from fire officials issued about 11 a.m.
Those communities have been forced to vacate since the first days of the Mendocino Complex fires when the Ranch fire swept around the north side of Clear Lake and began to push closer to the towns. Residents of those areas now can return home but were still under an evacuation advisory warning, to be ready to go if the fire threat returns.
The shoreline communities made up the bulk of the 12,000 people who were still under evacuation orders until Wednesday’s reprieve notice. About 19,000 people were evacuated at the peak of the fire. Communities still evacuated include Spring Valley, Bear Valley and Double Eagle.
The Mendocino Complex fires now have burned 300,086 acres, destroyed 116 homes and still threatens more than 10,000 homes, according to Cal Fire.
The overnight growth occurred in the northern end of the Ranch fire, which spread another 7,000 acres or so and now is at 251,166 acres. Fire officials reported a jump in containment on the massive blaze that in its own right sits in sixth place for California’s largest wildland fires.
Fire crews now have 46 percent of the Ranch fire contained, officials said. That’s up from 20 percent on Tuesday.
The River fire, burning west of Clear Lake, hasn’t grown, remaining at about 49,000 acres. Containment increased from 78 to 81 percent overnight.
Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin Wednesday had indicated that some evacuation orders would be lifted Wednesday, once safety and power were restored.
Every day assessment teams go into burn areas and count the losses. Wednesday the number of homes burned was at 116, up from 75 on Tuesday. The fires also destroyed another 105 other buildings.
A Cal Fire summary of the night indicated the fire’s northern section was the most active and continued spreading in dense stands of evergreens. Crews working the southern and southeast stretches of the vast fire strengthened containment lines.
At 2:10 p.m. Wednesday, a red flag warning was issued for the Mendocino Complex fire area for Thursday afternoon into Saturday evening, according to the National Weather Service.
“We’re concerned about a disturbance moving through the Pacific Northwest. Our concerns are the winds are going to be picking up. Those winds could cause rapid growth of the fires,” said Eric Kurth, meteorologist for the weather service based in Sacramento.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter@rossmannreport.