6,000 lightning strikes in California start dozens of fires, kill one person

Lightning strikes near a golf course in Temecula, Calif. on Wednesday. Photo: Frank Bellino

In the 24-hour period ending at 6:00 a.m. Thursday 6,257 lightning downstrikes were recorded in California. On Wednesday, 50 new fires were detected in the northern part of the state. In the south, the San Bernardino National Forest is working 22 lightning-caused fires while the Angeles National Forest reported 15 fires. The largest fire was 150 acres on the San Bernardino NF above the city of Highland.

There was rain with some of the lightning, keeping the spread of the fires to a minimum.

In an unusual move yesterday, smokejumpers from Redding, California were pre-positioned at the San Bernardino Air Tanker Base and Thursday morning jumped on some of the fires in the San Gorgonio Wilderness on the SBNF.

Lightning killed a 40-year old woman in Fontana, Calif. as she was standing under a tree.

From the AP:

Police said residents found her face down on the sidewalk after one bolt killed her and another damaged the sidewalk nearby. Her name has not been released.

“She was hit with a very significant jolt of lightning that left a gaping hole in her neck,” Fontana police Sgt. Jeff Decker said. “It burned down her body and blew out the bottom of her shoes,” Decker said. “Her upper body clothing was blown about 30 feet away from her body.”

Big Bear Lake fatality. Photo: AP

Another woman was killed when strong winds from a thunderstorm blew a tree onto her car as she drove in an area near Big Bear Lake. She was identified as Elena Martinez, 31.

Others were struck by lighting and survived. In Cabazon a woman suffered moderate injuries from a near miss as she walked across a parking lot.

In Lake Isabella, a 13-year old boy was struck as he was riding his bike Wednesday morning. He is in stable condition at a hospital.

A Southwest Airlines plane was struck by lightning half an hour after it departed from Oakland, forcing the pilot to turn around and return to the airport. There were no injuries to the 53 passengers or damage to the aircraft.

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