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Record blazes continue to spread across Northern California

Updated at 8:01 p.m. ET

California Governor Gavin Newsom presented a litany of devastating statistics on Monday as hundreds of thousands of acres continue to burn across California in some of the largest wildfires in state history.

“Fundamentally and fundamentally, we’re at a point [where] every resource available to us, every resource we have within the state, is being used “to fight wildfires,” Newsom said, his voice weary for a daily press conference.

More fires with more devastating effects

Newsom pointed to the disastrous and historic scale of this year’s fires so early in the season.

He noted that a year ago, about 56,000 acres were burned by 4,292 wildfires in the state. “To date, more than 7,002 forest fires [have burned] over 1.4 million acres,” he said. It’s an area more than three times the size of the city of Los Angeles and more than 6 1/2 times the size of Chicago.

Right now, California is battling about 625 concurrent wildfires statewide, including a number of new blazes that emerged overnight.

In the past 24 hours, nearly 300 lightning strikes have struck the Northern California region and 10 new fires have been started. However, officials suspect there are several individual “dormant fires” that have yet to be discovered due to the inaccessible nature of the terrain, the governor said.

More than 1,200 structures were destroyed, although Newsom said, “There is no question there are more structures that have been damaged.”

Meanwhile, the blistering heat continues to pose challenges for firefighters, especially in the eastern part of the state. And the northern part is preparing for strong winds, with lightning threatening to start new fires.

On all sides of the San Francisco Bay Area, the three largest blazes — caused by clusters of wildfires — are carving out mostly uncontained forests and rural areas, officials said.

Part of the reason, Newsom told reporters, is that in many cases the fires are ravaging areas that have seen no fire activity for more than 100 years. This is the case in the coastal mountainous areas around Santa Cruz, where flames are engulfing redwoods.

The governor called it proof that “we are in a different climate and we are dealing with different climatic conditions that precipitate fires the likes of which we have not seen in modern recorded history.”

Scorching heat and lightning offer little respite

Most of Northern California remains under a “red flag warningthrough Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service is calling for high temperatures, low humidity and “erratic” wind gusts of up to 40 mph to 50 mph that could blow around existing fires.

Over the past week, more than 13,000 dry flashes have sparked more than 600 fires that have been intensified by dry conditions in parched California terrain.

At least seven people died over the weekend when authorities discovered the body of a 70-year-old man in the remote area of ​​the Santa Cruz Mountains known as Last Chance.

Firefighters struggle to put out complex fires

The fire known as CZU August Lightning Complex burns some 78,000 acres in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties and destroyed at least 231 structures. On Monday afternoon, officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said the blaze was only 13% contained.

Complex fires consist of several separate fires distributed over a specific geographic region.

The largest of the three fire complexes, the LNU Lightning Complex, covers more than 350,000 acres near Napa Valley, making it the second largest fire in state history. It killed at least four people and destroyed 871 structures.

With only 22% of the blaze contained, Cal Fire officials expect the LNU Lightning Complex to spread as “fires continue to spread in multiple directions, affecting multiple communities.” according to a statement Monday morning.

In Santa Clara and Alameda counties, another series of fires that make up the SCU Lightning Complex have reached more than 347,000 acres, Cal fire reported. This fire is 10% contained.

Progress is being made in Southern California

In Southern California, firefighters battling rough terrain, hot weather and potential thunderstorms kept an 11-day blaze stable at just under 50 square miles near Lake Hughes in the mountains of Los Angeles County. . Over the weekend, crews made significant progress battling the flames and managed to contain 62% of the blaze, Newsom reported.

All California resources have been deployed

The governor reiterated Monday that the state is using available resources to end the underworld.

More than 14,000 firefighters across the state are working to put out the flames, Newsom said. While a significant number of out-of-state crews have already joined the ranks of state firefighters, more are expected to arrive from Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, from Oregon, Utah and Washington as well as some National Guard troops. of Kansas.

The Governor also requested 375 additional engines to reinforce those on the ground.

Evacuees face a new set of challenges

As fires force more residents to flee, some evacuated homes have been robbed. At least 13 people suspected of looting or planning to loot in Santa Cruz County have been arrested, officials said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is also complicating evacuation orders as authorities scramble to find space for residents who have been forced from their homes. As NPR’s Lauren Sommer reported, many evacuees are being sent to hotels to allow for social distancing in shelters.

More than 2,200 people were evacuated Monday morning, the governor said. Of these, nearly 1,500 were accommodated in hotels.

Others struggle to find shelter after being financially devastated by the pandemic. Earlier this week, Tina Marie Carini, her husband and two sons had to flee from their trailer in northern Santa Cruz County.

She and her husband are unemployed and anxious to recover financially now that wildfires have hit their neighborhood, Carini told KQED’s Hannah Hagemann. The family had to move three times last week.

“We just hope we don’t lose everything, and we’re tired of running,” Carini said. “We are so tired.”

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