Some of California’s largest ever fires raged across the state Saturday, forcing tens of thousands from their homes as forecasters warned of further blazes sparked by lightning strikes. Several thousand lightning bolts have hit California in recent days, starting fires that left thick smoke blanketing the region. “The western US and Great Plains are shrouded under a vast area of smoke due to ongoing wildfires that extend from the Rockies to the West Coast,” the National Weather Service said Saturday. “With severe drought and exceptionally dry fuels present, dry thunderstorms could spark additional wildfires this weekend.”
The two largest blazes — dubbed the LNU Lightning Complex and the SCU Lightning Complex — have burned about 600,000 acres (240,000 hectares) and destroyed 565 structures. The LNU fire covered 314,207 acres by Saturday morning, making it the second-largest fire in California history. About 2,600 firefighters are tackling the two blazes, which were described by officials as 15 percent and 10 percent contained, respectively. “We simply haven’t seen anything like this in many, many years,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Friday.
Wineries in the famed Napa and Sonoma regions, which are still reeling from blazes in recent years, are under threat. “Many of these firefighters have been on the lines for 72 hours, and everybody is running on fumes,” Assemblyman Jim Wood of the Healdsburg district in Sonoma told the Los Angeles Times. “Our first responders are working to the ragged edge of everything they have.”
Five deaths have been linked to the latest flare-ups, with four bodies recovered on Thursday, including three from a burned house in a rural area of Napa County. But many residents have refused evacuation orders. “At least if we’re here, we know exactly what’s going on,” Napa resident John Newman, 68, told the San Francisco Chronicle as he sat in a lawn chair in his driveway. “Family is worried, but it’s a little different if you’re here firsthand.” – Yahoo News
The heat wave and lightning-sparked barrage of California wildfires continues to escalate, with one of the blazes now ranking as the second-largest fire in state history, while another also occupies a spot in the top five. The fires have claimed hundreds of homes and threaten tens of thousands more, forcing more than 100,000 to flee amid a coronavirus pandemic that makes evacuation decisions fraught with challenges. Although firefighters have seen a letup in the high winds and heat that plagued Central and Northern California for much of the week, another round of thunderstorms that will deliver little rain but lightning discharges that could start even more blazes is anticipated as early as Sunday and lasting through Tuesday.
The fires have been blamed for at least six fatalities. In seven days, the California blazes have charred nearly a million acres, according to Cal Fire, more than tripling the area burned during a typical fire season (a little over 300,000 acres). The area of land burned is larger than Rhode Island. – Washington Post