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The worst in state history: California wildfires continue to rage

Huge bushfires, ignited by lightning, continue to rage on Monday, August 24, from all sides of the San Francisco Bay Area, and much of Northern California is on alert as strong lightning winds threaten to trigger more fires. Writes about it USA Today.

Photo: Shutterstock

Three huge wildfires have engulfed Northern California, and more than 650 wildfires have flared up across the state in the past week, mostly due to lightning.

Around a quarter of a million people have been targeted by evacuation orders as weather forecasts signal an impending threat of severe thunderstorms with high temperatures and unpredictable winds.

Latest update for Monday 24 August

From all sides of the San Francisco Bay Area, there are three of California's largest fires: LNU Lightning Complex, SCU Lightning Complex, CZU Lightning Complex (also known as Santa Cruz Fire).

LNU Lightning Complex in the north of the state burned 350 acres (030 ha) and was localized by 141%; SCU Lightning Complex in the southeast burned 652 acres (22 ha) and was localized 343%; The CZU Lightning Complex in the south burned 965 acres (139 ha) and was contained at 197%.

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Lightning Complex is a group of fires caused by lightning strikes.

The LNU Lightning Complex is expected to grow, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

“The fires continue to spread in different directions, affecting several communities,” Cal Fire said. More than 1000 structures have been destroyed or damaged, and it has been confirmed that at least four people have died since the fire started last Monday, 17 August.

The SCU Lightning Complex in the Santa Clara area "merged with two major fires and shattered into three zones," Cal Fire said.

Since the LNU and SCU burned over 500 square miles (1 square kilometers), these fires became two of the three largest fires in state history.

In the area of ​​the CZU Lightning Complex fire on Sunday, August 23, the body of a 70-year-old man was found. According to Cal Fire, about 77 people were evacuated from the CZU fire area.

“This is one of the darkest times,” said Santa Cruz Deputy Chief of the Sheriff's Department Chris Clark.

Across California, there have been more than 15 lightning strikes since August 12, resulting in hundreds of fires. More than 000 firefighters, 14 special vehicles and 000 aircraft are fighting fires.

Since July, wildfires have burned more than 1,2 million acres (485 ha) of land in California. For the entire 622, only 2019 acres (259000 ha) were burned.

Several wildfires are burning in Southern California around Los Angeles, including one of the first fires 11 days ago.

The weather forecast predicts many thunderstorms and dry weather, which could trigger more fires.

Much of Northern California remains on alert for "critical fire-related weather conditions" as the state faces further thunderstorms.

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Dry storms can cause more lightning, as well as gusty winds that can spread any fire.

Hazard alerts are in effect until Monday evening, August 24th.

Mark Brunton, chief of Cal Fire, said firefighters are ready for new fires, but he's not sure what to expect.

Cal Fire spokesman Bryce Bennett says officials studying fire maps are surprised at the sheer size of the fires. Market Watch.

“You can take an area half of one of these fires, and it will cover the entire city of San Francisco,” Bennett said.

In response to the emergency, US President Donald Trump issued a major disaster statement in California to provide federal assistance to the state. California Governor Gavin Newsom said the emergency declaration would also help people in the fire-affected counties.

Looting during fires

Local authorities warn that tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes, and looters have taken advantage of the situation.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said the marauder had robbed the car of one of the California firefighters.

Brunton called the incident "disgusting" and said the firefighter's wallet had been stolen and his bank account "emptied" while he was in charge of the area's fire brigades.

Hart said his department has already made eight robbery-related arrests. Some of the robbers came from other areas, he said.

“I have no empathy, I have no patience for those who steal from people who have been evacuated,” Hart said.

Air quality is deteriorating

With so many fires burning throughout the state, unhealthy air full of smoke continues to cover the areas around the fires and southern Central California.

The National Weather Service has issued warnings of poor air quality throughout much of the Bay and central California "until the fires are put out."

The San Joaquin Valley Weather Service office in Hanford warned residents, "Stay home whenever possible and avoid prolonged outdoor activity." Smoke is predicted to move north on Monday 24 August.

Air quality index maps show that levels of fine particulate matter, or PM 2,5, in air in parts of northern and central California are among the worst in the world.

"Exposure to contaminated particles can cause serious health problems, worsen lung disease, trigger asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and increase the risk of respiratory infections," the weather service said.

How to escape the smoke of forest fires

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bushfire smoke can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, make breathing difficult, and cause coughing or wheezing.

To reduce exposure to smoke, CDC recommends choosing a room that can be closed to outside air. Place a portable air purifier or filter in the room and put on a respirator to filter out the smoke, CDC officials said.

While most cloth or surgical masks will help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, they do not protect people from harmful smoke particles. A mask designed to filter out fine particulate matter, such as N-95, works best.

An air conditioning unit with high efficiency filters can trap fine smoke particles, and setting the system to recirculation mode can prevent outside air from entering the house.

"I want this nightmare to end"

Many families evacuated from the fire zone still do not know when they will be able to return home - and whether they will have a home at all. Mercury News.

Rhonda Hall left her apartment in Guerneville with her teenage daughter, adult son and pets. They were joined by her 70-year-old mother from Rio Nido and have since moved from motel to motel.

“I just want this nightmare to end,” says Hall.

The Hall tenement house is near downtown Guerneville and remains under mandatory evacuation, although no fire has penetrated the city. She has no idea how many more days her family will have to sit in a motel room, watch TV and try not to think about the fire.

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“All I can think about is,” Will everything be okay? When will the fire be extinguished? " Hall says.

For Johnston, Hall and the rest of the family, the nightmare began with a terrifying evacuation order. They headed to a motel in Vacaville, but by the time they arrived, ash was falling. A few hours later, they had to move again - without a refund for the room. Finding a new place to live was not easy.

“Everything was booked or on fire,” Hall said.

“It's enough stress to push anyone to their limits,” said Dr. Mark LaGrave, a Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa emergency room physician who volunteered for an evacuation shelter where nearly 200 people took refuge from the fires.

Over the course of many days, LaGrave says, common problems - from getting stuck in traffic to draining cell phone batteries - drove people crazy.

“Everyone is very emotionally tense now,” he said.

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