Hundreds of buildings have been destroyed, close to a million acres of land have been scorched and at least six people have died in one of the worst series of wildfires in California’s history.
And the worst is not behind us…
More than 13,700 firefighters are battling nearly two dozen major fires throughout the state, fire officials said Saturday. Five broad areas of the state are on fire, and the largest blazes remain mostly uncontained.
“The worst is not behind us,” tweeted Thom Porter, chief of Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency. “We are in a battle rhythm. New lightning activity is expected across the state. Double your efforts, to lookout for yourselves and each other.“
2020 lightning siege day 7. The worst is not behind us, we are in a battle rhythm. New lightning activity is expected across the state. Double your efforts, to lookout for yourselves and each other! EVERYONE, head on a swivel. WE'VE GOT THIS! @CAgovernor@CAL_FIRE @Cal_OES pic.twitter.com/mYb46jyM9E— CAL FIRE Chief Thom Porter (@CALFIRE_CHIEF) August 22, 2020
The fires were sparked by nearly 12,000 lightning strikes in a dry California terrain that hasn’t seen much rain. The “lightning siege” created close to 600 new wildfires, said Jeremy Rahn, a public information officer for Cal Fire, at a briefing yesterday:
The National Guard is providing helicopter support while Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve is supporting the effort with C-130 aircrafts equipped with water tanks to fight the fire from above.
Two of the fire systems now raging are among the five largest wildfires in California history, Cal Fire reports: the 341,000-acre LNU Lightning Complex Fire in the northern Bay Area and Central Valley, the 340,000-acre SCU Lightning Complex Fire largely east of San Jose.
More than 100,000 people face evacuation orders as fires have ravaged over 900,000 acres — an area larger than Rhode Island.
“We understand that many people are stressed and anxious,” Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said. “We ask that you please rely on each other. Help each other. Check on your neighbors. Stay calm.“
Most of the deaths throughout the state have come from a set of fires known as the L.N.U. Lightning Complex, covering an area of 341,000 acres around Napa Valley.
These LNU Lightning Complex Fire photos by the @AP's Noah Berger are terrifying. Here's the @latimes story on the fires raging in Northern California: https://t.co/cmvFo9MNZd pic.twitter.com/510xr1R9sk— Daniel Miller (@DanielNMiller) August 20, 2020
It’s the second-largest fire in the state’s history. These fires have killed four people and destroyed more than 840 structures, state officials said.
As of Sunday afternoon, the blaze was only 17% controlled.
340,000-acre SCU Lightning Complex Fire
Moving south, approximately 20 different fires merged into three major fires that now comprise the S.C.U. Lightning Complex, which is around Santa Clara and Alameda counties.
SCU Lightning Complex Fire in California pic.twitter.com/VNI2BHqmrK— SlavicSac (@SlavicSac) August 22, 2020
This series of fires has burned over 340,000 acres, and as of Sunday morning had destroyed 10 structures — though more than 20,000 structures were at risk, according to Cal Fire.
An orange haze filled the skies above as the SCU Lightning Complex Fire raged in nearby counties. A resident described the scene as akin to “armageddon” on his drive from Santa Cruz. #sculighteningcomplexfire #wildfires #california pic.twitter.com/pags1DLkDk— Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) August 21, 2020
It’s the third largest wildfire in the state’s history.
As of Sunday afternoon, the blaze was only 10% controlled.
65,000-acre CZU Lightning Complex
Fires also rage in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. The C.Z.U. Lightning Complex fire has so far consumed over 65,000 acres, Cal Fire reports.
The #CZULightningComplex fire has grown to 40,000 acres, officials say, with at least 20 structures damaged and 0 percent containment; @CAL_FIRE says there's "potential significant growth over the next 48 hours" https://t.co/1hzaWhE7bf pic.twitter.com/4jnuQpSirk— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 20, 2020
As of Sunday morning only 5% of the fire was contained.
Smoke from the fires is limiting visibility and hampering aircraft operations, officials said. Approximately 77,000 people in the area have been evacuated.
More lightning is expected over the next few days, which could spark more wildfires. Yes, incoming weather is concerning to us all and especially to residents in California. Be ready to evacuate your home fast and stay safe!