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article imageCalifornia burning: Hundreds of wildfires force thousands to flee

By Karen Graham     Aug 19, 2020 in Environment
Sacramento - Crews were battling wildfires in the San Francisco Bay Area and thousands of people were under orders to evacuate Wednesday as hundreds of wildfires blazed across the state amid a blistering heat wave now in its second week.
Governor Gavin Newsom blamed “this extraordinary weather we’re experiencing and all of these lightning strikes” for 367 known fires, including 23 major fires or groups of fires. He said the state has recorded nearly 11,000 lightning strikes in 72 hours, reports the Associated Press.
The situation in California has gone from bad to worse as nearly 7,000 firefighters are currently on the front lines fighting the fires, but it still isn’t enough. Agencies have requested 375 fire engines from neighboring states. Arizona and Nevada have sent equipment to California and Texas has offered to send firefighting crews.
“We are experiencing fires the likes of which we haven’t seen in many, many years,” Newsom said, reports The Guardian. “That is a resource challenge where they are stretched in ways where we haven’t seen in the last few years.”
This year'sfire season has been exacerbated by an unusually dry winter and spring that dried out brush and vegetation fueling many of the fires. “Now the fires are also burning through coast redwoods, through tense forest that would be normally pretty damp still this time of year,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA told The Guardian – noting that the recent heatwave, and the dry months that preceded it have primed the state’s forests to burn.
Vacaville, a city of about 100,000 people which lies halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento was awakened in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning as police and firefighters went door-to-door in a frantic scramble to warn residents to flee as the wildfire approached the city.
The LNU Lightning Complex fire is made up of several fires burning in five counties north of San Francisco, including in Vacaville, and had consumed 72 square miles as of Wednesday morning (186 square kilometers).
The California Independent System Operator (ISO), which runs the electric grid for most of the state, is asking people to set air conditioners at 78 degrees, avoid fans and appliances, and unplug unused devices between the hours of 2 PM to 9 PM.
The ISO was able to cancel a rolling blackout Tuesday night because customers did such a great job of cutting back on electricity use, and they are hoping residents will match yesterday's efforts.
And San Francisco residents are contending with the worst air quality in the world today. There are wildfires blazing in eight of the nine counties surrounding the City by the Bay.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed and other health officials gave an update on air quality in the city on Wednesday afternoon. The mayor said. as of Wednesday afternoon, "our air quality is on red, which means unhealthy." She urged all San Francisco residents to stay home if they can. "The best thing you can do is avoid exposure to outdoor air by staying indoors with the windows and doors closed."
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