Very helpful explainer from the Los Angeles Times; addresses several questions. I want to emphasize these passages from the article:
The fire, while massive, has destroyed far less property than other recent infernos. The wine country fires last year, while smaller in size, killed more than 40 people and destroyed thousands of homes.
For the most part, the Mendocino Complex fire has been burning into forest area and away from homes. Fewer than 100 structures have been lost and no fatalities have been reported. By contrast, the Carr fire in Redding [which is still burning] burned more than 100 homes and killed six people.And
Why is the area around Clear Lake so susceptible to fire?
[details the recent wildfires in the area]
UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain cited several factors for the destruction in Lake County: explosively flammable vegetation, warm overnight temperatures and the lingering effect of years of drought.
“This is a part of the state that I think overnight temperatures have played an enormous role,” Swain said. “It’s sort of this middle elevation where you’re above the marine layer but you’re not high enough in the mountains to really cool down either. So you’re sort of in this zone where fires can burn, with the increase in temperatures, as we’ve seen, all day and all night.”