California: evacuations multiply in the face of the advance of gigantic fires

Steph Deschamps / August 21, 2020


Evacuations continued in California on Thursday amid the surge of massive fires still out of control in the north and center of that US state, the smoke of which seriously affected air quality.


Two of the biggest blazes are raging north and south of San Francisco: the SCU Lightning Complex and the LNU Lightning Complex, encompassing multiple outbreaks that have broken out since Monday. The LNU, which affects the wine counties of Sonama and Napa, was still out of control Thursday, according to California firefighters. About a hundred houses were destroyed by the flames, which now threaten more than 30,000 buildings.


Evacuation orders continued to increase and many roads had been blocked by the authorities. Vacaville, a town of about 100,000 inhabitants located between San Francisco and Sacramento, was evacuated overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, residents having to flee in the middle of the night. In coastal Santa Cruz County, a third major outbreak - the CZU Lightning Complex - rages on in a sparsely populated area. It devastated part of the state's oldest national park, Big Basin Redwoods, known for its 2,000-year-old sequoias.


120,000 hectares already gone up in smoke


Ignited by thousands of lightning bolts, the fires have already devoured more than 120,000 acres across California, fueled by the wind and drought that has raged for several years in a state that recently broke heat records. They killed at least two people, according to firefighters: a helicopter pilot whose aircraft crashed while dropping water and an employee of the power company PG&E who was found dead. Smoke from fires prompted warnings of air pollution in affected areas, including San Francisco.


As long as these many fires burn for days and even weeks, the air quality will be extremely poor for a long time, "Daniel Swain, climate specialist at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), explained on Twitter. .


Fires, which usually occur between August and November, have become more frequent and larger in California in recent years, partly due to climate change. The deadliest fire in California history, dubbed Camp Fire, took place in November 2018 in the upstate and left 86 people dead. The fire, caused by a short circuit on a line in the PG&E grid, had virtually wiped the small town of Paradise off the map.

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