Yesterday, Saturday, August 22, President Trump approved a disaster declaration for California as wildfires in the state rage on, funneling federal aid to affected regions in Lake, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties, according to a White House statement.
Governor Gavin Newsom said the SCU Lightning Complex fire south and east of San Francisco was the third largest in the state’s history.
Weather and COVID-19 continue to complicate the situation. Concern over even more lightning strikes and forest officials have said that campfires left unattended by visitors to the forest areas have shown a 300% increase. Most wildfires are started by human agency/activities such as debris-burning, electrical power, vehicle, equipment use, arson, lightning, campfire, playing with fire, smoking, etc. (Source: What causes wildfires? San Francisco Chronicle, May 31, 2019)
Over 14,000 firefighters are battling 585 fires that have now burnt nearly one million acres. Reinforcement crews, fire engines and aircraft from 10 states, including Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Nevada, Iowa, Utah and Montana, began arriving in California on Friday to help to state’s crews who have been tirelessly fighting the blazes all week.
Governor Newsom has also reached out to Canada and Australia for support, specifically for firefighter personnel, to help “overwhelmed” frontline heroes.
At least six people have died, and thousands have been evacuated, with some people refusing to leave the evacuation zone out of stubbornness or wanting to protect their homes from the fire and others who use the chaos to commit crimes. Best advice: Leave. You can replace your home and valuables; you cannot replace your life.
At least 43 people including firefighters have been injured, and hundreds of buildings have burned down and thousands more are threatened.
With 650,000 coronavirus cases, many evacuees are grappling with fears over going to emergency shelters. People entering Emergency shelters are being given pre-screening temperature checks and asked to answer a series of health questions. Shelters are enforcing social distancing rules and mask wearing and some cases, are even giving out tents to families to self-isolate, while others are setting up separate emergency shelters for evacuees that display a high temperature. In unable or unwilling to stay at an emergency shelter, officials are telling people to consider sheltering with family and friends.
High winds are forecast and threatening to drive flames into more populated areas as dirty air from smoke blankets the state.
Original Article 8/20/2020: California is battling 367 known fires | State blanketed in smoke and fire
Wildfires, started by lightning and stoked by a searing heatwave, combined with fierce winds, have been moving quickly, overwhelming the state’s firefighters and first responders.
Governor Gavin Newsom reported at a press conference yesterday, Wednesday, August 19th, that the state is currently battling 367 known fires. “We are challenged right now,” the governor said. The state was struck by lightning 10,849 times over the course of 72 hours, he said.
Newsom went on to say that nearly 7,000 firefighters are currently on the frontlines and the state has been forced to call on outside resources for backup, requesting 375 fire engines from neighboring states.
Arizona and Nevada have sent equipment to California and Texas has offered to send firefighting crews, Newsom said.
And thanks to inmates locked down due to the coronavirus, the firefighting effort is handicapped form the lack of backup resources.
CalFire reported that a helicopter pilot near Coalinga on a water dropping mission in western Fresno county died after his helicopter crashed on Wednesday morning.
The combined excessive heat and fires has The American Lung Association urging people to take greater caution, saying the poor air quality could make breathing problems more dangerous for people already at-risk of contracting Covid-19.
Climate change, as evidenced by the soaring temperatures around the state, country, and around the world, is behind the rapidly growing number of wildfires world-wide, especially here in California, says experts. Those experts also say that it is not going to change, but only get worse.