Disasters & Accidents

California firefighters get help from the weather

San Francisco, Aug 24 (efe-epa).- The impact from a weather system that threatened to bring dangerous lightning to fire-ravaged Northern California turned out to be much smaller than expected, authorities said Monday.

Cal Fire, the state agency that oversees firefighting efforts, had feared a repeat of the wave of thunderstorms accompanied by nearly 11,000 lightning strikes that ignited more than 360 blazes during the weekend of Aug. 15-16.

“The weather wasn’t as significant as expected and that has given our crews the opportunity to make great progress,” Cal Fire operations chief Mark Brunton said Monday.

But the news wasn’t all good, as deputies with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office found the body of a 70-year-old man reported missing early last week.

The body lay on a road outside the coastal town of Davenport near what appeared to be the victim’s car, indicating that he died while trying to escape the flames.

Four other people are listed as missing in connection with what officials call the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire, affecting Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, south of San Francisco.

That blaze has consumed 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres), but the absence of storms overnight allowed firefighters to expand containment from 8 percent to 13 percent.

“It’s so dry it’s something we have not seen historically,” Cal Fire’s Brunton said last week of the CZU fire. “We’re seeing fire we’ve never seen in the coastal area before, in terms of amount and severity.”

The largest active blaze in Northern California, the LNU Lighting Complex Fire, is 22 percent contained, though it has already destroyed 142,000 hectares (350,000 acres) and 871 buildings in Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Solano, and Yolo Counties.

Five people have died in the LNU fire, which is the second-largest in California history, ahead of the SCU Lightning Complex Fire that continues to rage east of San Jose.

Cal Fire says that after burning upwards of 140,000 hectares (347,000 acres), the SCU blaze is roughly 10 percent contained.

The fires are adding to the burden of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, raising questions about health risks to the crews and to people who have to be evacuated, while the smoke from the blazes has resulted in dangerously poor levels of air quality in Greater San Francisco. EFE arc/dr

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