Story at a glance
- The wildfires sparked by lightning in Northern California have claimed five lives.
- Firefighter resources are stretched to their limits, with some blazes still not contained.
Northern California’s rash of wildfires now has a reported death toll of five residents, in addition to scorching thousands of acres and damaging multiple structures.
The deaths include a resident from Solano County, three civilians from Napa County, a utility worker from Pacific Gas & Electric Company, and a pilot on a water-dropping mission whose helicopter crashed, The Associated Press (AP) reports Friday.
Another 33 civilians and firefighters have been injured, with at least two missing.
Gov. Gavin Newsom attributed the wildfires to climate change, while speaking at the virtual Democratic National Convention.
“If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,” he said from an evacuation center near Watsonville.
Most of the wildfires were catalyzed by a rare lightning storm and have destroyed approximately 175 buildings, including private residences, leaving 50,000 more in jeopardy, according to Daniel Berlant, the assistant deputy director with the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The smoke churning into the air has caused the air quality to drop around the Bay Area and in parts of neighboring states. The fire has overtaken around 500 square miles of flora, mostly rural brushland, canyon areas and dense forests around San Francisco. Shifting winds and a lingering heat wave have also exacerbated the blazes.
More than 10,000 firefighters are fighting the blazes, which has still left the state fire department strained for resources. Newsom declared California to be in a state of emergency, a move that allocates additional resources to combat the fires.
Now, some crews are working 72-hour shifts, and the state requested 375 extra engines and crews from other states.
“That’s going to allow our firefighters that have been on the front line since this weekend to have an opportunity to take some rest,” Berlant told reporters.
While the fires continue to spread through the dry, arid landscape, many have been forced to flee their homes. Approximately 64,600 residents have been ordered to leave San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, with state parks and beaches closed to the public.