Monster plumes of smoke from the largest wildfire on record in California were captured in dramatic photos from crew members aboard the International Space Station, providing a haunting view of the devastation from about 240 miles above Earth.
The images show giant smoke columns rising from the Mendocino Complex, devastating fires that have scorched an area the size of Los Angeles since they started in late July. In some photos, the Earth's surface is nearly blocked out by thick, widespread smoke.
"Captured images of the largest #wildfires in #California history. It is truly heart-rending to witness," Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev posted.
His photos posted Tuesday show a smoke plume created by two fires in Northern California's Mendocino County. The wildfire became the state's largest on record over the weekend, passing the 2017 Thomas fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst offered his best to firefighters in an Aug. 3 post.
"These fires are frightening to watch, even from space," he said.
The Mendocino Complex is one of more than a dozen large fires burning in California, on pace for one of its worst years for wildfires on record. Large fires also are burning in and near Yosemite National Park, Shasta County and in Southern California's Cleveland National Forest.
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The Mendocino Complex was 47-percent contained early Wednesday. Flames have destroyed 116 homes since the fires started on July 27. It is threatening another 10,000.
The fires come on the heels of one of the most deadly and destructive years on record in terms of wildfires in California. Forty-six people were killed and more than 11,000 homes were destroyed by wildfires in 2017. More than 9,000 fires burned 1.2 million acres across California.
Since 1970, California is not only seeing more fires, but larger fires. Eight of the top 10 largest have all occurred since 2000. Along with the Mendocino Complex, they are the 2017 Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties; The October 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego County; the August 2012 Rush fire in Lassen County; the Rim fire in Tuolumne County in August 2013; the July 2007 Zaca fire in Santa Barbara County; the October 2007 Witch fire in San Diego County; and the Klamath Theater Complex fires that burned in June 2008 in Siskiyou County.