Fire Crews Continue to Battle Blazes in 4 Bay Area Counties as Temperatures Reach Triple Digits

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An Alameda County Fire crew battling a lightning-sparked blaze in the East Bay Monday.  (Alameda County Fire via Twitter)

Hindered by high winds, dry air and triple-digit temperatures, fire crews on Tuesday continued to fight a string of lightning-sparked brush fires that started Sunday in rural stretches of the eastern and northern Bay Area.

In the East Bay, a cluster of 20 separate lightning-sparked fires dubbed the SCU Lightning Complex threatened about 1,400 structures in rugged terrain with dense brush.

Those fires — including the Deer Zone and Marsh fires — in Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties had burned 85,000 acres and were 5% contained as of Wednesday morning. Two people have been injured.

The SCU Lightning Complex is burning in what's known as the Diablo Range, east of Mount Diablo, east of Fremont, and northeast of Mount Hamilton. The biggest fires are the Del Puerto, burning west of the town of Patterson along Del Puerto Canyon Road, and the Reservoir, just east of the Calaveras Reservoir.

"It's pretty much all challenging right now. The fires continue to burn in a steep inaccessible terrain,” said Cal Fire spokesman Jason Nialon. “Last night we were able to improve and strengthen our control line, so our challenge for today is again the weather.”

Meanwhile, a group of three fires in Napa County northeast of Santa Rosa had also collectively burned more than 12,000 acres as of Tuesday, and remained 0% contained. One of the blazes — the Hennessey Fire — southwest of Lake Berryessa, triggered expanded evacuation orders Tuesday, including everything west of Lake Berryessa along Berryessa Knoxville Road between Highway 128 and East Side Road, according to Cal Fire.

The Napa County Office of Emergency Services said an evacuation shelter has been established at Crosswalk Community Church at 2590 1st Napa.

“If you’re in an evacuation warning area, be prepared to go, have your pets near by, have your car packed and facing outward so that you can leave if that evacuation warning was changed to an evacuation order,” said Will Powers, a spokesman with the Cal Fire Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit.

Active fires in and around the Bay Area. Source: Cal Fire. (Matthew Green/KQED)

"The majority of the fires are in a rural area, steep terrain with brush, not a lot of accessibility for crews to get into certain areas, so air resources are playing a vital role on doing fire suppression," Powers added. No injuries had been reported as of Tuesday.

Efforts to quell the fires come amid an excessive heat warning that remains in effect until Wednesday. This weekend, the National Weather Service issued Red Flag warnings across much of Northern California as extreme heat and the threat of continued widespread thunderstorms raised the risk of more lightning-sparked fires.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday declared a statewide emergency in response to the fires.


“We are deploying every resource available to keep communities safe as California battles fires across the state during these extreme conditions,” Newsom said in a statement. “California and its federal and local partners are working in lockstep to meet the challenge and remain vigilant in the face of continued dangerous weather conditions.”

Earlier this week, Newsom secured grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support the state's response to fires burning in Napa, Nevada and Monterey counties.