California firefighters struggle to contain 560 blazes as governor asks for help

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About 119,000 people have evacuated the raging fires statewide after mandatory orders and recommended warnings, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday.

Up to 560 fires are burning across the state after a blitz of lightning strikes this week, he said. Almost every firefighting resource in California is battling the blazes — among the largest in state history.

Of the hundreds of fires burning, at least 22 are major. The wildfires have burned a total of 915,000 acres across the state, Cal Fire said.

“These fires are stretching our resources and stressing our personnel,” he said. “We have over 12,000 firefighters now actively working to suppress these larger complex fires.”

The two largest wildfires are the LNU Lightning Complex and the SCU Lightning Complex in Northern California.

The LNU Lightning Complex Fire, which has scorched 302,388 acres across Napa, Lake, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties, is now the second-largest fire recorded in state history, according to data from Cal Fire.

“Extreme fire behavior with short and long range spotting are continuing to challenge firefighting efforts. Fires continue to make runs in multiple directions and impacting multiple communities,” Cal Fire said in a statement.

The governor said additional firefighting aid came from neighboring states, including 10 engines from Arizona, 25 from Oregon, and five from Texas and Nevada.

Though thousands of firefighters are battling the flames — some on 24-hour shifts — there’s too many fires and not enough resources to prevent more homes from being torched.

“The fire conditions, the lack of resources, we’re doing the best we absolutely can,” Cal Fire section chief Mark Brunton said about blazes north of Santa Cruz.

One of the reasons for the lack of resources is there are fewer prison inmates because of early releases during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Inmate firefighters “are an integral part of our firefighting operations,” said Cal Fire resource management communications officer Christine McMorrow. The early releases have meant there are 600 fewer inmate firefighters available this fire season compared to last year.

Fire destroyed dozens of homes at the Spanish Flat Mobile Villa in Napa County this week.

Homeowner defended house with sprinklers on roof

The fires, largely sparked by lightning in the past few days, have been exacerbated by dry terrain during a torrid heat wave. And as tens of thousands of people heed evacuation orders, they’re weighing the risk of coronavirus infections as they decide whether to head to official shelters.
Wildfires are ravaging California. Here's how you can help

The LNU fire alone has destroyed about 480 structures, including many homes, in the northern Bay Area and Central Valley, Cal Fire has said.

Just west of Healdsburg, a city of about 11,000 people in Sonoma County, the approaching fire had people rushing to leave with whatever they could carry, CNN affiliate KPIX reported.

Jason Passalacqua told the station that he worked all day and night to trim trees and put sprinklers on his home’s roof ahead of the fire.

“It’s scary at the end of the day and it’s out of anybody’s control,” he said.

Vacaville, a city of 100,000 people between Sacramento and San Francisco, is one of the hardest-hit. Fire has burned homes in and outside the city, though most evacuation orders there have been lifted.
Smoke from the California wildfires stretches some 600 miles off the coast in a NASA satellite image Wednesday.

California wildfires have caused more deaths and destruction so far this year than in all of 2019. All of last year, they charred a total of 260,000 acres and killed three people in the state, according to Cal Fire.

Air quality levels in California’s Bay Area and Central Valley are worse than anywhere else, including locations generally regarded as having the poorest air quality such as India and eastern China.

At least four deaths were reported Thursday as a result of the LNU fire — the largest burning in the state. It consists of at least 11 smaller fires stretching across five counties in Northern California. Three of the deaths are from Napa County and one is from Solano County. In addition to the deaths, four other people were injured, Cal Fire said Thursday.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the oldest state park in California, has been extensively damaged by wildfire, officials said.

CNN’s Sarah Moon, Stella Chan, Alex Meeks, Brandon Miller, Cheri Mossburg, Jon Passantino, Dan Simon and Holly Yan contributed to this report.

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