The Ranch fire moves down the ridge as it spreads towards the town of Upper Lake, California on August 1, 2018.
MARK RALSTON—AFP/Getty Images
By Jennifer Calfas
August 7, 2018

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station shared images of the plumes of smoke billowing from the wildfires in California, giving a global perspective to the size of the aggressive infernos.

Richard Arnold II, a NASA astronaut aboard the ISS, posted images Monday above California that showed plumes of smoke traveling eastward as at least 16 major fires burned across the state.

Several days earlier, Alexander Gerst, a European Space Agency astronaut also aboard the ISS, shared photos of the smoke as well. His pictures showed the Bay Area and Northern California, where major fires like the Carr Fire and Mendocino Complex Fire continue to burn.

The photos shared by the astronauts shed light on the massive amounts of smoke filling the air in the Golden State as more than a dozen wildfires burn through dry vegetation and threaten thousands of homes. Significant portions of the state — particularly across the Sacramento Valley and much of Northern California — have been chocked by unhealthy air as the wildfires continue to burn.

In Northern California, a number of fires have broken state records, destroyed more than 1,000 homes, and displaced tens of thousands of people who had to flee their homes for safety.

The Mendocino Complex Fire, created by two neighboring fires in Lake County and Mendocino County, became the largest wildfire in state history when it ballooned to more than 283,00 acres Monday, officials from the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. The fire has destroyed 75 homes and 68 other buildings – and continues to threaten 11,300 more.

North of that fire, the Carr Fire continues to burn with just 47% contained. That fire destroyed 1,080 homes in Shasta County, and at least seven people have died as a result. Before the Carr Fire took off, the Ferguson Fire sparked near Yosemite National Park in Mariposa County. It has taken two lives. The roaring fire caused National Park officials to close popular portions of the park like Yosemite Valley for the first time in 20 years — and during peak tourism season.

It’s just the beginning of what is typically considered fire season in California. Record-breaking temperatures in July helped fuel many of these fast-moving fires, and officials anticipate that the worst is yet to come.

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