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Trump Approves 'Major Disaster' Declaration in CA as Fires Break State History Records

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A firefighter assesses a blaze during the LNU Lightning Complex blaze on the outskirts of Vacaville on Aug. 19, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Lightning strikes last weekend sparked hundreds of fires burning throughout California. Wildfires continue to burn, causing evacuation orders and sending smoke throughout the Bay Area. Three groups of fires burning south, east and north of San Francisco are forcing thousands to evacuate and have killed at least five.

Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced President Donald Trump moved to unlock federal assistance for Californians experiencing wildfires.

Trump approved California's request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration, unlocking federal emergency funds for the state, and making counties impacted by wildfires eligible for crisis counseling, housing and unemployment assistance and legal services, according to Newsom's office.

“Thank you to the President for your partnership and granting this urgent Major Disaster Declaration," Newsom said, in a statement. "These are unprecedented times and conditions, but California is strong — we will get through this."

Meanwhile, more lightning may be on the way.

The National Weather Service issued a "red flag warning" across the entire San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coast, warning that fast-moving storms and dry lightning may strike between 5 a.m. Sunday, and 5 p.m. Monday. The storms will have "limited moisture."

Those dry lightning strikes may lead to an "increase in wildfire starts in proximity to thunderstorms," according to the weather service.

Also Saturday, Cal Fire Chief Sean Kavanaugh said the LNU complex in the North Bay Area is now the second-largest wildfire in state history. The SCU complex burning in Santa Clara and neighboring counties is the third.


Latest Developments

When separate fires are burning near each other Cal Fire often dubs them "complexes." There are three such massive groups of fires currently burning in and around the Bay Area:

  • LNU Lightning Complex: Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Yolo, Lake counties (including the Hennessey, Gamble, Walbridge, Meyers and Green fires)
  • SCU Lightning Complex: Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Stanislaus counties (including fires in the Deer, Calaveras and Canyon zones)
  • CZU August Lightning Complex: San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties (including the Warnella, Waddell fires)

LNU Lightning Complex

Click on each of the following links to see each county's evacuation updates: Napa CountySolano CountyLake CountyYolo County and Sonoma County.

The LNU complex of fires, ignited by lightning strikes in Napa early Monday morning, consists of seven separate blazes raging across five different counties, including Sonoma, Napa, Solano and small sections of Yolo and Lake counties. As of Saturday the fire complex had grown exponentially to more than 314,207 acres. So far, the blazes have claimed the lives of five people and destroyed nearly 560 homes and other buildings, while continuing to threaten 30,500 more structures. The fires were 15% contained as of Saturday afternoon.

SCU Complex

The SCU Lightning Complex is approximately 20 separate fires broken into three zones: the Canyon, Calaveras Zone and Deer zones. As of Saturday morning, the fires had collectively burned 291,968 acres — the seventh-largest complex in California history — and were 10% contained, Cal Fire said. The blazes are largely burning in steep, rugged terrain in mostly less populous areas across Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, and have led to some evacuation orders, mainly near San Jose, with four injuries reported. The fires have so far destroyed five structures and are threatening more than 20,065 others.

CZU Lightning Complex

The CZU August Lightning Complex consists of multiple smaller lightning-sparked fires in the Santa Cruz mountains that merged into a massive blaze in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, forcing more than 77,000 residents to evacuate, including the entire UC Santa Cruz campus. As of Saturday evening, the fires had burned 63,000 acres and were 5% contained.


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