Californias Common Fire
g, sudden surge of wildfires is burning through California, threatening towns and sending choking smoke over major cities and across much of the United States. It is creating an epic, dangerous disaster whose ingredients have been brewing for years.
Fire officials have grouped some of the smaller fires in an area into complexes to coordinate their response. The largest of these is the SCU Lightning Complex. It has burned 229,000 acres as of Friday morning across parts of the southern San Francisco Bay Area, including Santa Clara and Alameda counties. The SCU Lightning Complex is now 10 percent contained, but officials expect “critical rates of spread” as winds pick up.
To the north, the LNU Lighting Complex near Napa has killed at least four people, burned more than 219,000 acres, and destroyed or damaged 600 structures. Thousands were forced to evacuate. The fire was 7 percent contained as of Friday morning, and officials anticipate the flames will spread further. These are just two of dozens of large fires currently raging across the Golden State. Together, all these fires have burned close to 600,000 acres in California in just under a week. It is not just the size of the fires concerning; some of the blazes are in coastal areas that do not burn very often, threatening the state’s iconic redwoods.
The blazes were ignited by a massive dry lightning storm earlier this week over many parts of the state but concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area. A spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had close to 11,000 strikes in three days. With an already-warm weather pattern and arid conditions here in California, with those lightning strikes coming through, over 367 new fires were started.
Smoke, soot, and ash from the fires also shrouded Northern California in the dirtiest air in the world at several points during the week.
Wildfires are nothing new for Californians, and many are wearily growing accustomed to the heat, smoke, and evacuations as fires reignite in areas torched in the recent past. However, this week’s blazes stand out for their scale, timing, locations, and intensity, even among recent record-breaking fire seasons.
Moreover, the wildfires are just one of several harrowing disasters afflicting California right now. The state has been scorched by a record-breaking heatwave, with several days in a row of temperatures reaching triple digits in some places, even at night. Temperatures in Death Valley topped 130 degrees Fahrenheit. That heat led to rolling blackouts as utilities struggled to meet cooling demand.