More about Northern California lightning bust

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From the reports I have seen, there are at least 300-400 fires that were started by the lightning that moved across the northern part of California from west to east during the last 24 hours. As this is written, lightning is still occurring in northeastern California.

Most of the fires are very small, their growth muted for a while by the overcast skies that brought the thunderstorms. But as the skies clear, smoke from a few large ones northwest of Redding and west of Ukiah is becoming visible in satellite photos. Only a small percentage of the fires are staffed and many new ones are being discovered every hour.

This situation is going to become dire unless the northern half of the state receives a great deal of rain in the next day or two. The weather forecast for the next several days at Redding shows temps in the low to mid 90’s, moderate winds, minimum RH’s in the high teens, and very little chance of rain.

It is starting to look like it could become another summer like the “Siege of 1987” when lightning in late August started 1,600 fires in northern California and southern Oregon that burned 650,000 acres. Some of the fires burned into October.

From the New York Times, September 2, 1987:


Firefighters called in from around the nation deployed in the forests of Northern California today, battling hundreds of lightning-ignited fires that have blackened 68,000 acres and forced people to move out of some mountain communities.

Three rural communities in western Oregon were threatened by fires surging through tinder-dry timber, while firefighters in Idaho slowly gained ground against a blaze that menaced an affluent neighborhood of Pocatello.

In California, nearly 9,000 firefighters battled major blazes in the Stanislaus, Klamath, and Shasta-Trinity national forests and nearly 300 smaller fires, said Mike Milosch of the United States Forest Service in Sacramento.

Mr. Milosch said firefighters had controlled about 700 other blazes ignited by nearly 5,000 lightning strikes since Saturday. The lightning is occurring in near-record heat that has left forests extremely dry. In the Air and on the Ground

Fire officials said there had not been as many lightning-caused fires in California since the summer of 1977 when a fire in the Los Padres National Forest blackened nearly 200,000 acres.

The Federal and state firefighters now battling the blazes employed at least 48 air tankers, 296 fire engines, 31 helicopters and scores of bulldozers.

Remember when we used to be able to deploy 48 air tankers to one state?

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