Authorities in California announced Wednesday evacuations for thousands of people as multiple wildfires left firefighters facing "depleted" resources and area residents dealt with rolling blackouts, high heat, poor air quality, and possible loss of homes—all as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage.
Those battling the blazes expressed concern about adequate capacity.
"Throughout the state of California right now, we are stretched thin for crews," state fire spokesperson Will Powers told the Associated Press. "Air resources have been stretched thin throughout the whole state."
At a press conference Wednesday, Cal Fire spokesperson Jeremy Rahn said, "Over the past 72 hours, California has experienced a historic lightning siege." An estimated 11,000 lightning strikes sparked 367 new wildfires, he said, adding that over 300,000 acres have burned across the state.
The fires include the LNU Lightning Complex, which encompasses multiple fires spanning five northern California counties and has blamed for the loss of at least 50 homes. "Two other lightning-caused fire groups, the SCU Lightning Complex fires and the CZU August Lightning Complex fires, have similarly impacted residents and firefighters across the greater Bay Area," CBS San Francisco reported.
In California, the current outbreak of wildfires has completely overwhelmed the state's fire protection system.— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) August 19, 2020
"firefighting resources are essentially depleted" https://t.co/LjnTsX8lJn
"Firefighting resources are depleted as new fires continue to ignite," said Rahn.
Bay Area dealing with some of the worst air quality in the world. #BAAQMD has some tips:— Janelle Wang (@janellewang) August 19, 2020
- Avoid going outside
- Keep windows closed
- If you have AC, put it on circulate
- If it's too hot inside your house, find a cooling center.https://t.co/Z4yrsD1wz3@nbcbayarea #purpleair pic.twitter.com/1JDd5EpBiQ
Journalists and others on social media have been sharing dramatic images of the fires:
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who on Tuesday declared a statewide emergency, said at a press conference Wednesday, "This fire season has been very active and, not surprisingly, that activity is taking shape in a number of counties up and down the state of California."
Among those who were forced to evacuate their homes was Taylor Craig.
Speaking to the Marin Independent Journal Tuesday from a Walmart parking lot in Santa Cruz County, Craig said, "I'm a climate refugee."