California wildfires continue to rage, forcing thousands to be evacuated from their homes

  • london
  • August 25, 2020
  • Comments Off on California wildfires continue to rage, forcing thousands to be evacuated from their homes
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Wildfires continue to rage across California after incendiary lightning strikes sparked hundreds of blazes last week.

Firefighting crews are stretched to their limits after the wildfires, including the second- and third-largest on record in California, remained out of control, with some 240,000 people under evacuation orders or warnings across the state.

Rebecca Pledger, 64, a retired nurse in the Lake County community of Middletown about 90 miles north of San Francisco, said she and her husband chose to disregard evacuation orders for the time being, hoping their home would be spared as they stayed put to attend to their chickens, horse and dogs.

On Wednesday night, the northeastern edge of a gigantic blaze dubbed the LNU Lightning Complex fire had burned to within three miles of their property.

Chula Vista firefighter Rudy Diaz monitors the LNU Lightning Complex Fire as it engulfs brush in Lake County, California (REUTERS)

“We’ll leave when we see the flames coming down the hill,” she said, adding that the couple had packed up their pickup truck and were ready to flee at a moment’s notice.

Much of northern California, from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Pacific Coast, remained under a “red flag” alert for extreme fire hazards on Monday.

Close to 300 lightning strikes sparked 10 blazes Sunday night into Monday morning, and more “sleeper fires” were likely smoldering as yet undiscovered in areas shrouded by dense smoke, Governor Gavin Newsom said.

A helicopter and crew release water to extinguish a section of the LNU Lightning Complex Fire in Lake County, California (REUTERS)

“We are in a different climate and we are dealing with different climate conditions that are precipitating fires the likes of which we have not seen in modern recorded history,” Mr Newsom told a news briefing on Monday.

Wildfires ignited by more than 13,000 lightning strikes all across northern and central California since August 15 have killed at least seven people and destroyed over 1,200 homes and other structures. Collectively, the blazes have charred more than 1.2 million acres (485,620 hectares), a landscape more than triple the size of Los Angeles.

“We are essentially living in a megafire era,” said CalFire Santa Clara Unit Chief Jake Hess told reporters, noting that the state has endured four of the five largest wildfires in its history during the past three years.

Ventura County firefighter Tommy Minadeo mops up the LNU Lightning Complex Fire in Pope Valley, California (REUTERS)

“Nothing’s left, but we’re safe,” said one man, who did not give his name in an online video showing everything but his patio furniture destroyed at his house near Vacaville.

The LNU Lightning Complex Fire engulfs a ridge line near Aetna Springs, California (REUTERS)

Smoke from fires created unhealthy air quality for a large swath of northern California and drifted as far away as Kansas.

More than 14,000 firefighters, some who have been forced to work gruelling 72-hour shifts, were assigned to the wildfires, with 91 fire crews travelling from seven states and National Guard troops arriving from four states, Mr Newsom said.