Firefighters to Arrive from Out of State as Fires Break State History Records

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A fire truck drives past a sign on Highway 9 announcing a road closure a mile ahead in Boulder Creek on Thursday Aug. 20, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Lightning strikes last weekend sparked hundreds of fires burning throughout California. The wildfires have burned nearly one million acres statewide according to the Associated Press. Three groups of fires burning south, east and north of San Francisco are forcing thousands to evacuate and have killed at least five.

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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.

Mark Brunton, a battalion chief for Cal Fire, said winds can blow a fire in any direction and while he’s confident firefighters did the most with the time they had to prepare, he’s not sure what to expect. “There’s a lot of potential for things to really go crazy out there,” he said.

A 70-year-old man died in the CZU Complex Fires, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office reported Sunday evening, the first to be reported dead in that particular fire. The LNU Complex Fires have reportedly killed five people.

"I think this is one of the darkest periods we've been in with this fire," said Santa Cruz Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Chris Clark.

A helicopter crew recovered the man on Last Chance Road. They have identified the victim but are withholding his name while they work to notify his family.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said firefighters and aircraft from at least ten states began arriving on Friday. Roughly 14,000 firefighters are battling statewide blazes, according to Cal Fire, with several hundred fire engines soon arriving from states around the country.

"A significant airforce" consisting of 200 aircraft are fighting the fires, Cal Fire spokesperson Daniel Berlant said Sunday.

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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 Sunday, the fire complex had grown to more 347,630 acres. So far, the blazes have claimed the lives of five people and destroyed nearly 845 homes and other buildings, while continuing to threaten 30,500 more structures. The fires were 21% contained as of Sunday afternoon.

The LNU complex is the second-largest wildfire in California history, according to Cal Fire.

SCU Complex

The SCU Lightning Complex is approximately 20 separate fires broken into three zones: the Canyon, Calaveras Zone and Deer zones. As of Sunday afternoon, the fires had collectively burned 343,965 acres — the third largest wildfire 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. The fires have so far destroyed five structures and are threatening more than 20,265 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 Sunday morning, the fires had burned 74,000 acres and were 8% contained.

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Additional Reporting from the Associated Press