By: Olivia Smith
Dangerous fire conditions throughout the state force evacuations and cause electrical power outages as the spread continues.
Wildfires across California, fueled by extreme heat, dry winds and thunderstorms reached a record-shattering high on Monday, having officially burned 2 million acres. The fires continue to cause multiple counties to evacuate, threatening lives and homes across the state.
Typically, California experiences intense fire seasons during the summer months when rainfall is almost nonexistent. This past year has been one of the worst when it comes to both rainfall and dryness in southern and northern California counties.
Here’s a rundown of a few of the largest fires:
SCU Lightning Complex
At almost 400 thousand acres, the SCU Lightning Complex fire is the largest fire in California this year. Starting on Aug. 16 and east of San Jose, the counties affected are Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus. Active for 20 days, it is now 94% contained. A total of 224 structures were damaged, both residential and commercial.
LNU Lightning Complex
Northeast of San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Yolo and Solano suffered extreme measures. The almost 400 thousand acre LNU Lightning Complex fire that started from a thunderstorm on Aug. 17 at 6:40 a.m. PT (9:40 a.m. ET) has become one of the top three biggest fires in California in 2020. Over 1,000 structures have been destroyed and the fire has been burning for 21 days. As of Sep. 8, the fire is 91% contained.
CZU Lightning Complex
Almost at 90 thousand acres, the CZU Lightning Complex fire in northern California fails to stop as it threatens the southern San Francisco coast. It has been active for 22 days and is now 81% contained. Over 1,000 structures have been destroyed. Counties affected are San Mateo and Santa Cruz. Due to the fire, one of California’s oldest state parks in Santa Cruz, Big Basin Redwood State Park, is facing immediate closure.
Big Basin Redwood is home to the largest standing ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco. On Aug. 19, the California Department of Parks and Recreation released a press release regarding the park’s recent closure. Due to the unhealthy air quality and power shortages, the park is to remain closed until further notice.
Multiple fires in southern California are worrying citizens. With triple-digit heat waves, fire counts are not going down. Counties highly affected are Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside.
The El Dorado fire in San Bernardino County started Saturday at 10:23 a.m. PT (1:23 p.m. ET), burning more than 10,000 acres while being only 16% contained. The fire started due to a gender reveal party that used a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device. According to a news release from the San Bernardino National Forest, firefighters made strong progress by Monday evening due to a decrease in wind.
The Mendocino Complex fire in L.A. county, consisting of both the Ranch fire and the River fire that started on July 27 at 12:05 p.m. PT (3:05 p.m. ET), is finally coming to a close. Residents in the Azusa area were notified that they can return to their homes as restrictions were lifted.
Southern California Edison (SCE) is continually notifying L.A. county residents of current and potential power outages in the area. Residents are relying on renewable energy and natural gas to accommodate their needs for cool air. But with the mix of fires and heat maintaining high levels throughout the state, electricity is required to be shut off.
Pacific Gas and Electric (PGE) in northern California is also warning residents of possible power outages. In 2019, the company’s decision to cut back electricity resulted in the exposure of the negative side effects to the grid process. While providing a cheap way to obtain electricity, the company refused to acknowledge specific side effects such as the threat of wildfires. As of 2020, PGE has made no further investments to improve the grid system. The power outages and blackouts continue to affect resident’s lives.
As the hectic fire season continues to run its course in California, organizations are asking for help. The American Red Cross Association is serving to provide food, shelter and supplies to those who cannot return to their homes. Volunteers are continuously being sought out.
To volunteer, visit redcross.org.