Wildfires rage in Northern California

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7:59 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Destructive wildfire in Northern California triggers evacuations

From CNN's Sarah Moon

Flames are seen on both sides of Lake Berryessa in this long-exposure photo taken in Napa, California, on Tuesday.
Flames are seen on both sides of Lake Berryessa in this long-exposure photo taken in Napa, California, on Tuesday. Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Evacuation orders were issued in Northern California where the LNU Lightning Complex Fire burned 46,225 acres, destroyed 50 structures and damaged another 50 structures across Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties.

Residents in portions of Lake and Napa counties were advised that there was an “immediate threat to life and property” due to the fire. They were urged to evacuate as soon as possible, according to Cal Fire. Some Sonoma County residents were also asked to evacuate.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office issued an evacuation order for residents living near Hidden Valley Lake and in the Jerusalem Valley area.

While some evacuations in Napa County have been lifted, residents who live near Highway 121 are still under a mandatory evacuation order. 

“This is a lawful order to leave now,” Cal Fire said in a release on Wednesday. “The area is lawfully closed to public access.”

More details: The LNU Lightning Complex Fire consists of at least eight separate fires that are impacting the areas of Solano, Sonoma, and Napa counties, according to Cal Fire. The fire was threatening at least 1,900 structures.

7:32 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Helicopter pilot dies in crash while fighting blaze in Central California

From CNN's Sarah Moon

The pilot of a firefighting helicopter that was on a water mission on the Hills Fire in Central California this morning has died, Cal Fire said in a news release.

The pilot was the only person on board the helicopter, according to Cal Fire.

The helicopter was battling the Hills Fire in Fresno County and making water drops before it went down this morning, said Cal Fire spokesperson Seth Brown.

6:24 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Helicopter crash sparks new fire in Central California

From CNN's Sarah Moon

A firefighting helicopter crashed in the remote area of Coalinga, California, on Wednesday morning, sparking a new wildfire, authorities confirmed to CNN.

“A Bell UH-1 helicopter that was involved in firefighting operations crashed under unknown circumstances 11 miles south of New Coalinga Municipal Airport in Coalinga, Calif., around 10 a.m. PDT. The crash caused a new brush fire,” a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said in a statement.

The helicopter was battling the Hills Fire in Central California and making water drops before it went down this morning, said Cal Fire spokesperson Seth Brown.

Additional air and ground resources responded immediately, Brown said.

Brown said while the crash started a new fire, it is now burning into the main fire so it is not a major concern. The Hills Fire is currently 1,500 acres and 35% contained.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

 

4:38 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

California man detained in connection with Big Sur wildfire

From CNN's Jon Passantino

A man has been detained on arson charges in connection with a wildfire burning thousands of acres in Northern California.

California State Parks officials detained Ivan Geronimo Gomez, 30, near the origin of the Dolan Fire in Big Sur and he was booked into Monterey County Jail on charges of arson of forest lands, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Gomez is being held on $2 million bail.

As of Wednesday, 50 firefighters were battling the Dolan Fire, which has burned 2,500 acres and prompted evacuations in the Big Sur area along the Northern California coast. It was one of hundreds of wildfires actively burning across the state as a record-setting heat wave brought sweltering conditions to California.

An investigation into the origin of the fire is ongoing, the sheriff’s office said. Those with information about the fire are asked to contact the Monterey County Sheriff’s Investigations Division.

4:32 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

More than 360 wildfires are burning in California, and 23 are major

From CNN's Sarah Moon

A mobile home and car burn at Spanish Flat Mobile Villa as the LNU Lightning Complex fires tear through unincorporated Napa County, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. 
A mobile home and car burn at Spanish Flat Mobile Villa as the LNU Lightning Complex fires tear through unincorporated Napa County, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.  Noah Berger/AP

Today will be “another challenging day” as California continues to battle the heat wave and wildfires, Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

“This fire season has been very active,” Newsom said, as he compared the “substantially lower” number of fires last year.

Of the 367 total fires burning statewide, 23 are considered major wildfires.

While California is challenged by the number of active fires burning, Newsom said the state is in a better state of preparedness with a world-class firefighting force and equipment. 

Newsom said every firefighting resource is being utilized and the resources are “stretched” throughout the state. The state is also receiving firefighting support from other states like Arizona, Nevada and Texas. 

Newsom added that these extraordinary weather events continue to put pressure on the energy supply. 

Another “Flex Alert” was issued on Wednesday urging residents to conserve energy from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. PT to avoid potential rotating power outages. 

Over 47,000 megawatts of electricity are expected to be utilized on Wednesday due to the high temperatures. About 38,000 megawatts are used on a typical summer day, according to Newsom.  

“We really need everybody to do everything in their power to reduce consumption,” said Newsom.

3:44 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

This couple says there weren't enough fire trucks to battle the blaze that destroyed their home

From CNN's Dan Simon

The Vacaville Senior Center in Northern California has opened as an evacuation center for residents affected by the wildfire. So far, about 20 people are there.

Marci and Ken Albers, who lost their Vacaville home, are at the center now. The Albers evacuated around 2 a.m. local time with only the clothes on their back.  

They said the fire chief told them that there were no fire trucks to battle the blaze because they were all being used to fight another fire in Lake Berryessa.   

“They couldn’t do anything, they just had to watch it burn," said Marci Albers. “They had no trucks to take out there.”

Marci Albers continued: “I was just thinking that after we left — the house will be there and we’ll be fine. I’m in shock. I can’t even think straight. We had 30 years of stuff in that house.”

7:24 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

More than 10,000 lightning strikes have sparked at least 367 new fires

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Lightning forks seen over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as a storm passes over Oakland, California on Sunday on August 16, 2020. Numerous lightning strikes early Sunday sparked brush fires throughout the region.
Lightning forks seen over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as a storm passes over Oakland, California on Sunday on August 16, 2020. Numerous lightning strikes early Sunday sparked brush fires throughout the region. Noah Berger/AP

Approximately 10,849 lightning strikes have sparked 367 new fires in California over the past 72 hours, Cal Fire spokesperson Jeremy Rahn said in a news conference. In all, Cal Fire estimates that over 300,000 acres have burned.

The LNU Lightning Complex is a group of many separate fires in Northern California, stretching over five counties. Some of those fires are believed to have merged for an estimated 42,000 burned acres.

Evacuations are ongoing throughout the region, yet officials do not have a clear number on exactly how many people have been told to leave their homes. The day’s priorities are firefighter and public safety, evacuation planning, and structure and infrastructure protection, Chief Chris Waters outlined.

“This is an incredibly emotional and stressful time for many of us who have endured many fires and natural disasters over the last couple of years,” Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said. “We realize that this is a trigger point for many of you.”

Hot, dry winds and resources that have been stretched thin will hamper today’s efforts, an incident commander said. Cal Fire has requested 375 fire engines from out of state to assist in the battle.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that the lightning strikes sparked 367 new fires in California overnight. It happened over the past 72 hours.

2:06 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Here's what one of the wildfires in Northern California looks like from above

The LNU Lightning Complex is a series of eight large fires burning across Napa, Sonoma and Solano Counties in Northern California. In total, more the complex includes 46,000 acres of wildfires.

Aerial images from KPIX showed the LNU Lightning Complex fire near Lake Berryessa.

Here's what it looks like:

1:24 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

California wildfires are creating colorful sunsets in Texas, weather service says

The National Weather Service in Lubbock, Texas, said recent colorful sunsets in the area are due to the wildfires raging in both California and Colorado.

"Have you noticed the colorful sunsets lately? Unfortunately, the reason is smoke from wildfires across CO and CA," the service tweeted.

The service also tweeted a model of where smoke will travel over the next day. It covers much of the western half of the country: