(CNN) — Almost every firefighting resource in California is battling the hundreds of blazes the include two of the largest wildfires in the state’s history, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday.
“These fires are stretching our resources and stressing our personnel,” the governor told reporters.
The wildfires tormenting California have killed at least four people, turned neighborhoods into ash and blanketed swaths of the state with dense smoke.
About 96% of the state’s firefighting engines have been assigned, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokesman Jeremy Rahn said.
Cal Fire said it has doubled the number of personnel battling the fires in the last 24 hours, with many engines and resources coming in from neighboring states.
“I hope for good news, but it’s going to take a long time,” said Cal Fire Unit Chief Shana Jones. “We are not out of the woods. Not by far.”
More than 560 fires have torched at least 771,000 acres — an area larger than Rhode Island — with the two largest, the LNU Lightning and SCU Lightning complex wildfires, among the 20 largest recorded wildfires in state history.
All of last year, they charred a total of 260,000 acres and killed three people in the state, according to Cal Fire.
Though thousands of firefighters are battling the flames — some on 24-hour shifts — there’s too many fires and not enough resources to prevent more homes from being torched, fire officials say.
“The fire conditions, the lack of resources, we’re doing the best we absolutely can,” Cal Fire section chief Mark Brunton said Friday morning about blazes north of Santa Cruz.
The fires, largely sparked by lightning in the past few days, have been exacerbated by dry terrain during a torrid heatwave. And as tens of thousands of people heed evacuation orders, they’re weighing the risk of coronavirus infections as they decide whether to head to official shelters.
The LNU fire alone has destroyed about 4,800 structures, including many homes, in the northern Bay Area and Central Valley, Cal Fire has said.
Just west of Healdsburg, a city of about 11,000 people in Sonoma County, the approaching fire had people rushing to leave with whatever they could carry Thursday night, KPIX reported.
Jason Passalacqua told the station that he worked all day and night to trim trees and put sprinklers on his home’s roof ahead of the fire.
“It’s scary at the end of the day and it’s out of anybody’s control,” he told KPIX.
Warm and dry conditions are expected to help drive worsening fire spread in Northern California Friday afternoon, Cal Fire said.
Vacaville, a city of 100,000 people between Sacramento and San Francisco, is one of the hardest-hit. Fire has burned homes in and outside the city, though all evacuation orders there have been lifted.
At least four deaths were reported Thursday as a result of the LNU fire — the largest burning in the state. It consists of at least 11 smaller fires stretching across five counties in Northern California.
Three of the deaths are from Napa County and one is from Solano County. In addition to the deaths, four other people were injured, Cal Fire said on Thursday.
On Wednesday, a helicopter pilot who was making water drops on the Hills Fire in Fresno County died in a crash.
Governor slams power blackouts
As if the pandemic, wildfires and scorching heatwave weren’t bad enough, some Californians have lost electricity as the state’s power grid struggles to keep up with demand.
Rolling blackouts were implemented over the weekend when an intense heatwave caused record-setting temperatures across the state, including a high of 130 degrees in Death Valley on Sunday.
Newsom demanded an investigation into the power outages, which he said are unacceptable.
“These blackouts, which occurred without warning or enough time for preparation, are unacceptable and unbefitting of the nation’s largest and most innovative state,” Newsom wrote in a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission.
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