Cluster of wildfires in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties cover an estimated 46,225 acres
We’re closing the blog down but thanks for being with us.
You can read the full report here:
Here are the main developements with the California wildfires today:
- Firefighters are battling 367 known fires, governor Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday. Many of these are in northern California, and are burning to the north, east and south of San Francisco fuelled by drought, a heatwave and high winds.
- More than 10,849 lightning strikes in the last 72 hours have caused the fires to start, with Newsom declaring a state of emergency in California, which is already being ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
- Dozens of properties have been destroyed and thousands of people have fled their homes to escape the fires.
- The lightning strikes have given their names to the fire complexes. The LNU lightning complex fire is made up of several fires in five counties north of San Francisco, and affecting more than 46,000 acres.
- Vacaville, a city of about 100,000 people between San Francisco and Sacramento, saw at least 50 homes destroyed. The fire jumped across Interstate-80, closing the road between Vacaville and Fairfield and causing long lines of traffic..
- The biggest fire is the SCU lightning complex burning through 85,000 acres around Santa Clara county south-east of San Francisco.
- There are also a number of fires burning around Los Angeles. You can use this locator map to find out where they are.
- There are 8,900 personnel making up 13 teams across California to fight the fires, the agency said. However, numbers are depleted because the usual backup crews from the state’s prisons are in Covid-19 lockdown and cannot be released to help.
- The Bay Area had the worst air quality in the world on Wednesday as the fires sent plumes of smoke over the region and the city of San Francisco.
You can read our full report here:
Associated Press have just field an updated report from Vacaville where there are multiple evacuation orders in place.
One resident, Karen Hansen, described the scene: “The whole sky was red orange and it was coming over the hill there and it was massive. I’ve never seen anything like it and it only took a few minutes to get here.”
She evacuated her Vacaville home late on Tuesday as flames rushed toward her family’s small farm, packing up her smaller animals but unable to bring along two beloved horses. They returned Wednesday to find the house and barn destroyed, but their horses had survived.
“I’m not upset about the house. Im just happy that my horses and animals are alive and my daughter,” she said.
However, with I-80 freeway closed in both directions for much of the day many people have chosen to stay in their homes.
Still on the wider implications of the wildfires, Associated Press has spoken to a fire scientist about the link between Coid-19 and the fires.
Jennifer Balch at the University of Colorado says the virus is forcing us into the outside where transmission is lower. But the fires are leaving people with no option but to shelter indoors.
“These disasters need solutions that are in direct conflict with each other,” she said. “Covid-19 is forcing us outside to reduce transmission risk while extreme wildfire smoke is forcing us back inside where the air is better. We’re running out of options to cope, under the weight of compound disasters.”
And there’s also the issue we’ve touched on already about how the lockdown in prisons has deprived firefighters of their usual backup from crews of inmates.
As we said earlier, residents in California have been urged to conserve power as the wildfires raging across the state trigger outages on the electricity grid.
It has people sweltering in their homes as they are unable to use their air-conditioning or even fans to keep cool.
One of the worst hit areas is the Bay Area, where the air quality slumped to the worst in the world on Wednesday with another equally bad day due on Thursday.
Erin DeMerritt, of the Bay Area air quality management district, suggested visiting cooling centers where they were available or any indoor space with filtered air while following mask-wearing and social distancing protocols.
It’s also important to note that bandannas and masks used to protect yourself from the coronavirus do nothing to protect against smoke from wildfires.
There are some very powerful pictures coming out of California, particularly from around Vacaville.
Napa county has also released new evacuation orders as the wildfires continue to posr a “significant threat to life and property”.
The order says:
An evacuation order has been issued for Highway 29 at the Lake County line to Silverado Trail, Silverado Trail to Highway 128, Highway 128 to Chiles Pope Valley Road, Chiles Pope Valley Road to Pope Valley Road, Pope Valley Road to Butts Canyon Road, and Butts Canyon Road to the county line. This includes the communities of Angwin and Deer Park.
To help get an idea of where these fires are burning, here’s a map that the fire authorities in California have linked to. You can zoom in and out so hopefully it will help you (and me) get a handle on things.
Police in Fairfield 50 miles east of San Franciso have issued multiple evacuation orders for neighbourhoods under threat as the LNU lighning complex fire advances south-west from Vacaville.
The fire destroyed at least 50 structures in Vacaville, including some homes, and 50 were damaged, according to Associated Press.
The fire then jumped interstate 80 in the afternoon and began to bear down on Fairfield.
Hello. I’m Martin Farrer and I’m taking over the wldfires live blog. You can contact me at [email protected] or, if you prefer, on Twitter at @MartinFarrer
The Sacramento Bee has an interesting story saying that there is a shortage of firefighters this summer because hundreds of prison inmates in Lassen county who are usually deployed to help in the effort are locked down because of Covid-19.
According to the report, “only 30 of the state’s 77 inmate crews are available to fight a wildfire in the north state”, citing prison officials.
California’s incarcerated firefighters have for decades been the state’s primary firefighting “hand crews,” and the shortage has officials scrambling to come up with replacement firefighters in a dry season that is shaping up to be among the most extreme in years. The state is hunting for bulldozer crews and enlisting teams that normally clear brush as replacements.
There are now hundreds of fires blazing across California, but where exactly is affected and how will it be contained? Here is what we know so far.
Firefighters in the state are battling 367 known fires, Gavin Newsom, the California governor, said in a press conference on Wednesday. Many of these are in northern California, fueled by climate change-induced drought coupled with high heat and major storms in the state in recent days.
More than 10,849 lightning strikes in the last 72 hours have created more than 367 new fires, according to Cal Fire, the California Department of Forest and Fire Protection.
There are currently 8,900 personnel making up 13 teams across California to fight the fires, the agency said.
Cal Fire is collectively referring to the wildfires that broke out this week as the Lightning Complex fires. This is because most of them were sparked by lightning and are “complex” fires, meaning there are two or more fires concentrated in one general location.
Fire services distinguishing between the largest active incidents as follows.
LNU Lightning Complex: LNU stands for Cal Fire’s Lake-Napa Unit. LNU Lightning Complex thus refers to the fire that began in Napa county on 18 August and has since expanded to Solano and Yolo counties, primarily affecting the neighborhoods on the western edge of Vacaville. It has burnt more than 46,000 acres and is 0% contained as of 1.40pm PST on Wednesday.
Within the LNU Lightning Complex are a number of individual fires including the Hennessy fire, Gamble fire, Green fire, Markley fire, Spanish fire, Morgan fire, Wallbridge fire and Myers fire.
SCU Lightning Complex: SCU stands for Santa Clara Unit, and SCU Lightning Complex refers to the fire that began in Santa Clara county on 18 August and has since spread to parts of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. So far, 85,000 acres have burned and the fire is less than 5% contained as of 3.30pm PST on Wednesday.
The SCU Lightning complex includes more than 20 fires in addition to an 800-acre brush fire in Point Reyes national seashore. They are divided into three zones: Calaveras zone, Canyon zone and Deer zone.
CZU Lightning Complex: CZU stands for San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit, referring to the fire that began in Santa Cruz on 17 August and has since spread to parts of San Mateo county. So far 10,000 acres have burned and the fire is 0% contained as of 4pm PST on Wednesday.
The CZU Lightning complex includes the 5-15 fire, 5-18 fire, 5-14 fire, Waddell fire and Warrenella fire.
– Kari Paul
Residents in northern California seeking to flee the expanding wildfires have run into major traffic delays as the blazes shut down many highways in the area.
Interstate 80 between Fairfield and Vacaville in California was stopped on Wednesday afternoon as the LNU complex fire jumped across the six-lane freeway and spread up the hill on the other side.
The highway is near the areas experiencing evacuation orders on Wednesday. California Highway Patrol officers waved traffic onward through the smoke.
– Kari Paul
Wildfires have forced Californians from their homes and into evacuation shelters, but the pandemic is complicating efforts to safely feed and house evacuees.
At one evacuation site at the fairgrounds in Santa Cruz, workers set up a dozen large tents inside a large warehouse-like building, with each tent spaced six feet apart. Site organizers, wearing protective masks and gloves, took evacuees’ temperature once they were allowed inside the shelter, reported the Mercury News.
In years past, dozens of cots would have been lined up just a couple feet apart. But things have changed, said one rescue worker: “You can’t do that in Covid and expect a pure result,” he said.
Elsewhere, in Sonoma county, officials raced to establish a separate evacuation center for anyone with symptoms of Covid-19. And a number of sites are hustling to secure hotel rooms to house the recently displaced.
“Go where you can congregate with the smallest amount of people you can – that would be preferable,” one Stanford doctor said. “It’s not going to be ideal no what matter what we do.”
A helicopter involved in the fight against fires has crashed south-west of Fresno, in California’s Central Valley, sparking a separate brush fire.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the crash happened around 11am. Rescue teams entered the rugged terrain to search for survivors, but the conditions of those aboard remains unclear.
– Mario Koran
Fires burning in all but one of the nine counties surrounding the San Francisco Bay area has created the worst air quality in the world.
An air quality map from the San Francisco Chronicle shows fires that are ringing the metro area and the poor air that’s settled over the region.
So what does poor air quality mean for people recovering from Covid-19?
“People are already worried about catching the virus and becoming ill. Having respiratory problems and other problems, and then having a natural disaster to deal with or multiple fires going on during fire season is not pleasant,” Vinayak Jha, a San Francisco pulmonologist, told the Chronicle.
Breathing in wildfire smoke can cause shortness of breath, coughing and sore throat and could exacerbate symptoms of Covid-19, he said.
Wildfire smoke is like tobacco smoke without the nicotine, said a professor of medicine and environmental health sciences. When burned, it produces carbon particles with toxic hydrocarbons.
When inhaled, the fine particles make it deep into the lungs, causing inflammation. The condition has been found in the lungs of firefighters. The closer someone is to the fire, the more risk of inflammation.
A growing number of reports emerging from China, Europe and the US suggest that poor air quality is associated with increased Covid cases and deaths, Jha said.