News ID: 273235
Published: 0202 GMT August 22, 2020

California wildfires some of largest in state history

California wildfires some of largest in state history
Firefighters make a stand in the backyard of a home in front of the advancing CZU Lightning Complex fire in Boulder Creek, California, US.
NOAH BERGER/AP

Lightning-sparked wildfires in Northern California exploded in size Friday to become some of the largest in the western US state history, forcing thousands to flee and destroying hundreds of homes and other structures as reinforcements began arriving to help weary firefighters.

More than 12,000 firefighters aided by helicopters and air tankers are battling wildfires throughout California. Three groups of fires, called complexes, burning north, east and south of San Francisco have together scorched 991 square miles (2,566 square kilometers), destroyed more than 500 structures, AP reported.

The fires in California are growing and now at least six people have been killed and two more are missing, according to local authorities, abcnews.go.com reported.

At least 100,000 people are under evacuation orders.

The number of personnel assigned to the sprawling LNU Lightning Complex doubled to more than 1,000 firefighters Friday, Cal Fire Division Chief Ben Nicholls said.

Fire crews with help from “copious amounts of fixed-wing aircraft” were working Friday to stop a large blaze from reaching communities in the West Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, he said.

The blazes, coming during a heat wave that has seen temperatures top 100 degrees, are taxing the state’s firefighting capacity but assistance from throughout the country was beginning to arrive, with 10 states sending fire crews, engines and aircraft to help, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

“We have more people but it’s not enough. We have more air support but it’s still not enough and that’s why we need support from our federal partners,” Newsom said.

Newsom thanked President Donald Trump’s administration for its help a day after pushing back on Trump’s criticism of the state’s wildfire prevention work, saying that he has a “strong personal relationship with the president.”

“While he may make statements publicly, the working relationship privately has been a very effective one,” Newsom said.

There are 560 fires burning in the state, many small and remote but there are about two dozen major fires, mainly in Northern California. Many blazes were sparked by thousands of lightning strikes earlier in the week.

Tens of thousands of homes were threatened by flames that drove through dense and bone-dry trees and brush. Some fires doubled in size within 24 hours, fire officials said.

With firefighting resources tight, homes in remote, hard-to-get-to places burned unattended. Cal. Fire Chief Mark Brunton pleaded with residents to quit battling fires on their own, saying that just causes more problems for the professionals.

The ferocity of the fires was astonishing so early in the fire season, which historically has seen the largest and deadliest blazes when dry gusts blow in the fall.

At least 14,000 people in Solano County remained under mandatory evacuation Friday, Solano County Undersheriff Brad DeWall said. He said 119 homes have been destroyed in his county.

At least two other people were missing and more than 30 civilians and firefighters have been injured, authorities said.

Smoke and ash billowing from the fires has fouled the air throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and along California’s scenic central coast.

 

 

 

   
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