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Nearly 150,000 Acres Have Burned in Bay Area Wildfires

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Fire, lightning, rain, a scorching sun and thunderous clouds. It’s hot, sleepless nights and air thick enough with smoke to chew on. It’s the constant threat of power blackouts. It’s having nowhere to escape the heat — malls, movie theaters and indoor restaurants still all shuttered in the midst of a health pandemic. And while we’re battling back these daily challenges, the land around us is burning in almost every direction.

This past week has been a rollercoaster ride through an apocalyptic landscape of climate change. Wednesday is Day 6 of a severe heat wave that has seen temperatures in some inland areas of the Bay Area climb to 106 degrees. The boiling heat and dry vegetation created a tinderbox powerless against strikes of lightning we witnessed Saturday night and Sunday morning. And here we are, living through yet another summer of red-tinted skies and smoldering grounds, with firefighters pushed to their limits and residents desperate for reprieve.

There are more than two dozen fires burning simultaneously throughout the Bay Area and just beyond. They’ve been grouped into three “complex” fire incidents being handled by different Cal Fire divisions.  

The CZU August Lightning Complex In San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, where more than 22,000 people have been evacuated and about 6,000 structures are threatened, the five separate fires — Warrenella, Waddell, 5-14, 5-15 and 5-18 — have collectively burned about 10,000 acres. Only the 120-acre Warrenella blaze in Santa Cruz County is 5 percent contained. There is no containment reported yet at the other four.

Three first responders have been injured.

Evacuation zones in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties prompted by the CZU August Lightning Complex fires. (Map courtesy of San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office)

Evacuation centers have been established at Pescadero High School in San Mateo County and Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville.

A complete list of evacuation zones can be found on the Cal Fire incident page. 

In the North Bay, an area still struggling to recover from infernos of years past, another 46,225 acres had burned between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in what’s been dubbed the LNU Lightning Complex that stretches over Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties.

The seven-fire system, none of which at all contained, is made up of the Hennessey, Gamble, Green, Spanish, Markley, Myers and Walbridge fires. Four civilians have reportedly been injured. Cal Fire is providing updates regularly, including evacuation and road closure details. An evacuation center has been established at Crosswalk Community Church in Napa.

Animals can be taken to the Napa County Animal Shelter. 

The SCU Lightning Complex in Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties has burned about 85,000 acres, injured two first responders and is threatening 1,403 structures as of Wednesday morning.  

In Solano County, where a portion of the LNU Lightning Complex is burning, 50 structures have been destroyed and another 50 damaged. The complex is made up of three fire zones, each representing several separate blazes:

  • Deer Zone: Round Fire, Palm Fire, Marsh Fire, Briones Fire
  • Calaveras Zone: Kilkare Fire, Arroyo Fire, Mill Creek Fire, Welch Fire, Ohlone Fire, Reservoir Fire
  • Canyon Zone: Peg Leg Fire, Terravilla Fire, Del Puerto Fire, Peach Fire 

Cal Fire officials said Wednesday progress on the Deer Zone looked “better than other areas.”

Though they did not elaborate on exactly how much progress has been made, they did say they will re-evaluate evacuation orders Wednesday afternoon. A full list of evacuations and road closures can be located on the Cal Fire incident page.

The weather will thankfully cool down a little bit Thursday, but is still expected to reach mid-90s inland. However, if the alternative is 105 degrees, 95 degrees sounds almost delightful. Smoke that’s made our air quality horrendous and unhealthy will linger for a while, so keeping doors and windows closed as much as possible is extremely important especially for those with existing respiratory issues.

CZU August Lightning Complex fire in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. (Photo courtesy of Cal Fire CZU)

It’s a hill to climb with the dry conditions we face — about 19 percent of the state is in a severe drought and much of the Bay Area falls into that range.

If you have been issued an evacuation warning, please locate your pets and pack a bag so that you can leave as quickly as possible. If you’ve ordered to leave, then leave immediately, remembering to take your face coverings with you. 

Our hearts are with our neighbors and the firefighters out there doing all they can to keep us safe. Don’t forget to take care of one another, and please stay safe. 

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.