Mendocino Complex Fires evacuees return home to region transformed

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Lake County - the burned land of smoke and money spent fighting the Mendocino Complex Fires, which grew to the largest single fire incident in California History. (KGO-TV)

Lake County - the burned land of smoke and money spent fighting the Mendocino Complex Fires, which grew to the largest single fire incident in California History. As of Tuesday morning, it has burned nearly 300,000 acres, destroyed 100 structured, strained 4,000 firefighters to the max, and transformed the region almost beyond recognition.

"This is Clear Lake, but it isn't very clear today, is it?" observed one resident.

Not even close.

LIST: Largest wildfires in California history

The Mendocino Complex Fire has created three kinds of people in the region. Those who have lost their homes. Others, who remain exiled by mandatory evacuations, and today, those who finally received the all clear.

"When you drove away what did you think you would come back to?" we asked Valerie Green, who manages the Blue Lakes Village RV Park. "A burned down park," she answered.

MAPS: Wildfires burning across California

Imagine Valerie Green's relief when her 45 tenants returned. When they left last week, flames encircled the park. "It was loud, roaring, you could hear trees explode, pow, pow pow," recalled Michael Morgan.

He returned with no damage worse than the RV bumper he bent while escaping. A small price, says Michael, compared with what he thought he would lose. "I am in a grateful place. We feel blessed."

Get the latest on the Carr Fire here, the Complex Fire here and the latest on wildfires across California here.

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