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Wildfires rage in Northern California

01:15 - Source: CNN
Flames scorch roads in fires caused by lightning strikes

What you need to know

  • Wildfires raced toward populated areas of Northern California’s wine country, as dozens of blazes burned in other parts of the state.
  • Some people just west of Vacaville — a city of about 100,000 residents between San Francisco and Sacramento — were ordered to evacuate as fires burned in the hills.
  • The fires come during a brutal heat wave. About 45 million people across the West are under an excessive-heat warning or heat advisory.

Our live coverage has ended, but you can read more about the fires here.

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Destructive wildfire in Northern California triggers evacuations

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
Flames are seen on both sides of Lake Berryessa in this long-exposure photo taken in Napa, California, on Tuesday.

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.

Helicopter pilot dies in crash while fighting blaze in Central California

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.

Helicopter crash sparks new fire in Central California

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.

California man detained in connection with Big Sur wildfire

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.

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