Over 15,000 personnel are battling California fires

Cooler weather has slowed some fires, but the August Complex grew by over 16,000 acres Tuesday

Updated August 26, 2020 | 11:38 a.m. PDT

California Fires August 26, 2020
California Fires August 26, 2020.

The  growth of the big complexes of fires in California, LNU, CZU, and SCU, has slowed in recent days, but the LNU and SCU Lightning Complexes still gained 4,509 and 5,717 acres respectively in the last 24 hours. The August Complex southwest of Red Bluff increased by 16,097 acres.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the lightning fires in California, including the most recent, click HERE.)

The blazes have charred more than 1.32 million acres, killed seven people, and destroyed nearly 2,000 structures. The fires are being fought by 280 hand crews, 2,400 fire engines, 300 dozers, and 370 water tenders for a total of 15,000 personnel.

In addition to the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group working on a request for firefighting assistance from Australia and Canada, California activated the National Guard for help containing the blazes. On August 23 CAL FIRE issued equipment to 270 soldiers as they were beginning basic fire training at Camp Roberts. Another group of 300 soldiers will arrive next week for training. CAL FIRE will embed with each 20-person crew a Captain and two firefighters for supervision.

Below are updates on some of the largest incidents in California, with data from CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service.

LNU Lightning Complex

  • Updated August 26, 2020 at 1:13 p.m. PDT
  • Location: North Bay
  • Counties: Napa, Lake, Yolo, Solano, Sonoma
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE Sonoma-Lake-Napa
  • Acres: 357,046. The largest fire in the complex is the Hennessey Fire, 299,763 . The Walbridge Fire west of Healdsburg is 54,923, and the Meyers Fire on the coast north of Jenner is 2,360.
  • Structures destroyed: 978
  • Personnel assigned: 2,207
  • Evacuation information:  CAL FIRE LNU Twitter page
  • Notes: Fires that merged to become the Hennessey Fire include Gamble, Green, Spanish, 5-10, Morgan, and Markley Fires.

SCU Lightning Complex

  • Updated August 26, 2020 at 1:13 p.m. PDT
  • Location: South Bay
  • Counties: Santa Clara, Alameda, Stanislaus, Contra Costa, San Joaquin
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE Santa Clara
  • Acres: 365,772
  • Structures destroyed: 31
  • Personnel assigned: 1,655
  • Evacuation information:  CAL FIRE SCU Twitter page
  • Notes: Fire activity has lessened due to favorable weather conditions and increased humidity across the complex. Deep seated heat still remains in the bottom of the steep, inaccessible drainages. During the evening fire crews held existing control line around the fire perimeter continuing to both reinforce and add new containment lines. When weather and conditions are favorable there will be a controlled burn operation inside the control line. This controlled burn will widen the buffer and consume fuel between the edge of the fire and the control line.

CZU August Lightning

  • Updated August 26, 2020 at 1:13 p.m. PDT
  • Location: South Bay
  • Counties: San Mateo, Santa Cruz
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE San Mateo-Santa Cruz
  • Acres: 79,640
  • Structures destroyed: 443
  • Personnel assigned: 1,697
  • Evacuation information: CAL FIRE CZU Twitter page
  • Notes: It is burning in Southern San Mateo County and Northern Santa Cruz County actively above the marine layer in the heavy timber and thick undergrowth.  Approximately 77,000 people have been evacuated.

River and Carmel Fires

  • Updated August 26, 2020 at 1:13 p.m. PDT
  • Location: Five miles south of Salinas, near Pine Canyon Rd. and River Rd.
  • Counties: Monterey
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE San Benito-Monterey
  • Acres: 48,424
  • Structures destroyed: 30
  • Personnel assigned: 1,183
  • Evacuation information: CAL FIRE San Benito-Monterey Twitter page, and see maps produced by Monterey County here.
  • Notes: Firefighters patrolling the fire Tuesday confirmed that the fire remained within containment lines. The onshore winds from the northwest allowed the fire to travel very slowly to the south with in containment lines.The Carmel Fire 2 miles southwest of the River Fire has burned 6,901 acres and destroyed 37 structures.

Dolan Fire

  • Updated August 26, 2020 at 1:13 p.m. PDT
  • Location: on the coast 10 miles south of Big Sur
  • Counties: Monterey
  • Administrative Unit: U.S. Forest Service, Los Padres NF
  • Acres: 21,844
  • Structures destroyed: 0
  • Personnel assigned: 880
  • Evacuation information:
  • Notes: Fire behavior was moderate throughout Tuesday night. Crews performed structure defense in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and continued to protect private property and clear roadways around Partington and along Hwy. 1. Crews continued to secure direct and indirect lines to keep the fire out of Hermitage, Lucia and Morning Glory. Progress is slow due to rough terrain and lack of available crews. On Wednesday, crews will continue to focus on the northern and southern edges of the fire by constructing and enhancing control lines, with the priority being lines along McWay ridge and above Lucia northeast to Twin Peaks.

August Complex

  • Updated August 26, 2020 at 1:13 p.m. PDT
  • Location: 18 miles southwest of Red Bluff
  • Counties: Tehama, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino, Trinity
  • Administrative Unit: Mendocino National Forest and CAL FIRE
  • Acres: 197,148
  • Structures destroyed: 10
  • Personnel assigned: 476
  • Evacuation information:
  • Notes: As of Tuesday evening: firefighters are opening preexisting fire breaks as control lines on the south portion of the Doe fire (160,436 acres 31% contained). Structure protection is continuing when it is safe to do so. Line construction is continuing on the Glade Fire (18,307 acres 0% contained). Firefighters are working in coordination with Crane Mills Timber and using dozers to tie in the north portion of the Tatham fire (8,958 acres 11% contained). .

Predicted dry lightning could worsen the fire situation in California and other western states

Red Flag Warning in effect for Northern California Sunday and Monday

August 24, 2020 | 7:45 a.m. PDT

Map fires California Bay Area
Map of fires in the California Bay Area, August 23, 2020.

As if firefighters and residents evacuating or battling lightning-caused wildfires in California didn’t already have enough to worry about, another round of dry lightning is in the forecast for Sunday and Monday.

Thunderstorms with little or no rain is what ignited over 500 fires earlier last week. Now scattered or isolated dry thunderstorms could hit northern California and portions of Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado through Monday.

Nick Nauslar, a Fire Meteorologist at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, wrote about the forecast in a tweet at 11:30 p.m. Saturday:

Hundreds of new fires are likely if this event pans out. And thunderstorm outflow winds will impact some ongoing fires which would lead to an increase of fire spread/behavior. I hope I'm wrong and this forecast busts. But for now, data points to another big event.

So it’s not just the potential for new fires that that is cause for concern — the strong outflow winds associated with the thunderstorms could greatly increase the rate of spread of the existing fires. It can also put firefighters in even greater danger as the winds can shift 180 degrees very quickly changing the direction a fire is moving, possibly overrunning personnel.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the lightning fires in California, including the most recent, click HERE.)

Check out this video showing the effect the passage of a thunderstorm had on the just-ignited Hennessey Fire August 17 in Napa Valley. That fire has now burned 287,811 acres. The effect of outflow winds is temporary, but a blaze that is suddenly much larger can outstrip the ability of firefighters to quickly suppress it.

Red Flag Warnings are in effect for the northern half of California through Monday evening. The highest threat of dry lightning is Sunday afternoon through Monday morning.

With existing shortages of personnel, equipment, engines, and firefighting aircraft, more fires would put further strain on the systems that are already being managed at the highest planning level nationally, Preparedness Level 5. In PL 5 over 80% of the nation’s incident management teams and wildland firefighting personnel are committed to incidents. Resource orders are being prioritized to fires across California and the west.

Aircraft that can map a fire using infrared imagery have not yet flown all of the large incidents and some maps and acreages are estimates. One of the two mapping aircraft owned by the U.S. Forest Service, N144Z which is the most capable, has not successfully mapped a fire since November 16, 2018 because an avionics issue has not been repaired. The Forest Service has hired privately owned mapping aircraft in an attempt to fill the void.

Below are updates on the largest incidents in California.

LNU Lightning Complex

  • Updated August 24, 2020 at 7:38 p.m. PDT
  • Location: North Bay
  • Counties: Napa, Lake, Yolo, Solano, Sonoma
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE Sonoma-Lake-Napa
  • Acres: 350,030. The largest fire in the complex is the Hennessey Fire, 293,602. The Walbridge Fire west of Healdsburg is 54,068, and the Meyers Fire on the coast north of Jenner is 2,360.
  • Structures destroyed: 871
  • Personnel assigned: 1,857
  • Evacuation information:  CAL FIRE LNU Twitter page
  • Notes: Fires that merged to become the Hennessey Fire include Gamble, Green, Spanish, 5-10, Morgan, and Markley Fires.
LNU Lightning Complex map
Map of the LNU Lightning Complex of fires at 9:21 p.m. PDT August 22, 2020.

SCU Lightning Complex

  • Updated August 24, 2020 at 7:44 a.m. PDT
  • Location: South Bay
  • Counties: Santa Clara, Alameda, Stanislaus, Contra Costa, San Joaquin
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE Santa Clara
  • Acres: 347,196
  • Structures destroyed: 12
  • Personnel assigned: 1,336
  • Evacuation information:  CAL FIRE SCU Twitter page
  • Notes: The complex is comprised of approximately 20 separate fires broken into three zones; the Canyon Zone, the Calaveras Zone, and the Deer Zone.

CZU August Lightning

  • Updated August 24, 2020 at 7:44 a.m. PDT
  • Location: South Bay
  • Counties: San Mateo, Santa Cruz
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE San Mateo-Santa Cruz
  • Acres: 74,000
  • Structures destroyed: 163
  • Personnel assigned: 1,511
  • Evacuation information: CAL FIRE CZU Twitter page
  • Notes: The fires continue to actively burn above the marine layer in the heavy timber and thick undergrowth. Damage Inspection Teams have begun to survey areas where fire activity has diminished and it is safe to do so. The number of destroyed structures reflected may change as teams continue to make progress. Firefighting resources are limited due to the number of fires burning throughout California. Limited visibility due to smoke is hampering aircraft operations. Approximately 77,000 people have been evacuated.
Map SCU Lightning Complex and CZU August Lightning Complex of fires
Map of the SCU Lightning Complex and CZU August Lightning Complex of fires at 7:54 a.m. August 23, 2020.

River and Carmel Fires

  • Updated August 24, 2020 at 7:44 a.m. PDT
  • Location: Five miles south of Salinas, near Pine Canyon Rd. and River Rd.
  • Counties: Monterey
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE San Benito-Monterey
  • Acres: 48,424
  • Structures destroyed: 21
  • Personnel assigned: 1,274
  • Evacuation information: CAL FIRE San Benito-Monterey Twitter page, and see maps produced by Monterey County here.
  • Notes: The Carmel Fire 2 miles southwest of the River Fire has burned 6,695 acres and destroyed 37 structures.

Dolan Fire

  • Updated August 23, 2020 at 9:31 a.m. PDT
  • Location: on the coast 10 miles south of Big Sur
  • Counties: Monterey
  • Administrative Unit: U.S. Forest Service, Los Padres NF
  • Acres: 19,287
  • Structures destroyed: 0
  • Personnel assigned: 488
  • Evacuation information:
  • Notes: On private land and the Los Padres National Forest, threatening the communities of Hermitage, Partington Ridge, and Lucia. Multiple businesses, communications sites, parks and recreational sites are also threatened. On Saturday crews continued to focus on point protection operations around Hermitage and Lucia to the South, and Partington Ridge and Anderson Peak communications infrastructure to the North. As the threat diminishes these priorities will shift. After more resources arrive the plan will expand to include additional perimeter control operations. The fire was mapped for the first time Saturday night with a fixed wing aircraft. This accurate method is the reason for the large increase in the known acreage.
River Carmel Dolan Fires map August 22 California
Map showing the locations of the River, Carmel, and Dolan Fires August 22, 2020.

August Complex

  • Updated August 24, 2020 at 7:44 a.m. PDT
  • Location: 18 miles southwest of Red Bluff
  • Counties: Tehama, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino, Trinity
  • Administrative Unit: Mendocino National Forest and CAL FIRE
  • Acres: 177,750
  • Structures destroyed: 10
  • Personnel assigned: 433
  • Evacuation information:
  • Notes: Of the 20 fires in the Complex the two largest are the Doe (136,430 acres) and Glade (13,088 acres). A Structure Damage Assessment Team has been ordered. Limited information is available about this incident.
August Complex Map
August Complex Map, August 22, 2020. Incident Management Team.

Briefing on the largest California fires

August 22, 2020 | 7:36 p.m. PDT

Map SCU Lightning Complex and CZU August Lightning Complex of fires
Map of the SCU Lightning Complex and CZU August Lightning Complex of fires August 21, 2020.

Saturday, on the seventh day after a 72-hour lightning bust started hundreds of wildfires in California, firefighters are stretched thin attempting to suppress the blazes and protect residents and property. Shortages of personnel, fire apparatus, and aircraft are showing up statewide.

(To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the lightning-caused wildfires in California, including the most recent, click HERE.)

Nearly 12,000 firefighters are battling over 20 major fires and complexes of fires in California, most of which were started by about 12,000 lightning strikes. There have been 560 new fires in the last week, primarily a result of the lightning. Firefighters contained a large majority of the blazes, but in spite of their best efforts, over 771,000 acres had burned through Friday prompting evacuations of 175,000 residents. About 96 percent of CAL FIRE’s engines are committed throughout the state. The fires have killed at least five people and injured 33.

Governor Gavin Newsom said in a news conference Friday that he has requested the assistance of Australian and Canadian firefighters.

We’ve also reached out across the border into Canada for resources and support. And many of you up here recall, I think it was 2017, the support that we were provided and the support we provided in turn of some of the best wildfire firefighters in the world from Australia. We also have requests out for that talent as well.

The ability for the U.S. to send firefighters to assist Australia and New Zealand is authorized in a formal agreement under the Emergency Wildfire Suppression Act. Last winter the U.S. sent over 150 firefighters to assist with bushfires in Australia, and has been the recipient of assistance from down under on several occasions.

The Monterey Herald reported that due to the River and Carmel Fires prospective visitors to Monterey County have been asked to delay their travel plans. A joint statement released from U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta and four local politicians said, “We also ask anyone considering travel to Monterey County to delay your travel plans. This will ensure that already limited local resources are not strained.”

LNU Lightning Complex

  • Updated August 22, 2020 at 7:24 p.m. PDT, Aug. 22
  • Location: North Bay
  • Counties: Napa, Lake, Yolo, Solano, Sonoma
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE Sonoma-Lake-Napa
  • Acres: 314,207. The largest fire in the complex is the Hennessey Fire, 261,793. The Walbridge Fire west of Healdsburg is 50,069, and the Meyers Fire on the coast north of Jenner is 2,345.
  • Structures destroyed: 560
  • Personnel assigned: 1,429
  • Evacuation information:  CAL FIRE LNU Twitter page
  • Notes: Significant fire growth is expected Saturday. Extreme fire behavior with short and long range spotting are continuing to challenge firefighting efforts. Fires that merged to become the Hennessey Fire include Gamble, Green, Spanish, 5-10, Morgan, and Markley Fires.
Map of the LNU Lightning Complex fires
Map of the LNU Lightning Complex of fires at 9:26 p.m. PDT August 21, 2020.

SCU Lightning Complex

  • Updated August 22, 2020 at 7:25 p.m. PDT, Aug. 22
  • Location: South Bay
  • Counties: Santa Clara, Alameda, Stanislaus, Contra Costa, San Joaquin
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE Santa Clara
  • Acres: 291,968
  • Structures destroyed: 5
  • Personnel assigned: 1,179
  • Evacuation information:  CAL FIRE SCU Twitter page
  • Notes:  Fire activity is expected to increase Saturday when the inversion lifts and smoke clears. The complex is comprised of approximately 20 separate fires broken into three zones; the Canyon Zone, the Calaveras Zone, and the Deer Zone.

CZU August Lightning

  • Updated August 22, 2020 at 7:27 p.m. PDT, Aug. 22
  • Location: South Bay
  • Counties: San Mateo, Santa Cruz
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE San Mateo-Santa Cruz
  • Acres: 63,000
  • Structures destroyed: 97
  • Personnel assigned: 1,157
  • Evacuation information: CAL FIRE CZU Twitter page
  • Notes: Continued hot and dry weather is predicted for the remainder of the weekend and into next week. Damage Inspection Teams have begun to survey areas where fire activity has diminished and it safe to do so. Firefighting resources are limited due to the number of fires burning throughout California. Visibility reduced due to smoke has been hampering aircraft operations. Approximately 77,000 people have been evacuated.

River, Carmel, and Dolan Fires

The Carmel Fire 2 miles southwest of the River Fire has burned 6,695 acres.

The Dolan Fire on the coast 10 miles south of Big Sur has spread to 8,500 acres on private land and the Los Padres National Forest.

River Carmel Dolan Fires map August 21 California
Map showing the locations of the River, Carmel, and Dolan Fires August 21, 2020.

August Complex

  • Updated August 22, 2020 at 7:34 p.m. PDT, Aug. 22
  • Location: 18 miles southwest of Red Bluff
  • Counties: Tehama, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino, Trinity
  • Administrative Unit: Mendocino National Forest and CAL FIRE
  • Acres: 160,005
  • Structures destroyed: 10
  • Personnel assigned: 357
  • Evacuation information:
  • Notes: The Complex, comprised of 20 fires, grew by over 31,000 acres August 21. The two largest in the Complex are the Doe (120,875 acres) and Glade (86,028 acres). A Structure Damage Assessment Team has been ordered. Firefighters in a remote location were resupplied with a four-day supply of food via four motorized GPS-guided parachutes which descended through smoke.
August Complex of fires map California
August Complex of fires map, 3 p.m. PDT August 21, 2020.

California wildfires — update on the four largest

The LNU Lightning Complex has grown to 302,388 acres

August 21, 2020  |  7:17 p.m. PDT

LNU Lightning Complex map
LNU Lightning Complex map

Firefighters in northern California are struggling for the sixth day with the aftermath of 10,800 lightning strikes that hit the area during a 72-hour period that began Sunday. Since there was not much rain with the lightning, over 300 fires started. Most of the blazes are under control, but still remaining are over 450,000 acres on active fires, and in some areas, the remains of structures that were destroyed. CAL FIRE spokesperson Jeremy Rahn described the situation as a “historic lightning siege.”

(To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the lightning-caused wildfires in California, including the most recent, click HERE.)

At least four people have died; a pilot whose helicopter crashed while dropping water on a fire near Coalinga, a PG&E worker, and two other civilians.

The fires are so numerous that three groups of fires have been formed, called “complexes”. This simplifies the organization and reduces confusion and duplication of personnel.

According to CAL FIRE more than 50,000 residents in California have evacuated because of the fires. On the four largest fires and complexes, CAL FIRE reports that 540 structures have burned, a number that includes residences, commercial, and outbuildings.

All non-essential personnel at Travis Air Force Base south of Vacaville were told Wednesday night to evacuate. They were ordered to not exit through the Main or Hospital Gates, but to instead use the North and South Gates.

The 50 patients that were at the 151-bed St. Helena Hospital northeast of St. Helena were ordered to evacuate.

Shortages of aircraft and firefighters are hampering the suppression of the fires. The dry, windy, and very hot weather conditions which are expected to continue through the weekend make control of any vegetation fire difficult even when an adequate number of resources are available.

The largest of the complexes is the LNU Lighting Complex. As of Thursday it had burned 215,000 acres in Napa, Lake, Yolo, Solano, and Sonoma Counties. The Hennessey Fire within the complex stretches for 45 miles north to south. It spread into the outskirts of Vacaville and crossed Interstate 80 between the city and Fairfield. As of Thursday night firefighters had been able to limit the burned area south of the Interstate.

Two other complexes are in the South Bay area, and the River Fire is south of Salinas.

The information below is updated when the data is provided by CAL FIRE.

LNU Lightning Complex

  • Updated August 21, 2020 at 7:14 p.m. PDT, Aug. 21
  • Location: North Bay
  • Counties: Napa, Lake, Yolo, Solano, Sonoma
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE Sonoma-Lake-Napa
  • Acres: 302,388. The largest fire in the complex is the Hennessey Fire, 256,102. The Walbridge Fire west of Healdsburg is 43,286.
  • Structures destroyed: 480
  • Personnel assigned: 1,059 (an increase of 472)
  • Evacuation information:  CAL FIRE LNU Twitter page
  • Notes: Fires that merged to become the Hennessey Fire include Gamble, Green, Spanish, 5-10, Morgan, and Markley Fires. At 3 p.m. August 21 @CAFireScanner reported, after monitoring radio traffic, that approximately 15 air tankers are working in the North Bay area; seven S-2Ts, a BAe-146, three or four military MAFFS, and three very large air tankers, two DC-10s and one 747.

SCU Lightning Complex

  • Updated August 21, 2020 at 7:11 p.m. PDT, Aug. 21
  • Location: South Bay
  • Counties: Santa Clara, Alameda, Stanislaus, Contra Costa, San Joaquin
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE Santa Clara
  • Acres: 274,968
  • Structures destroyed: 5
  • Personnel assigned: 1,179
  • Evacuation information:  CAL FIRE SCU Twitter page
  • Notes: comprised of approximately 20 separate fires broken into three zones; the Canyon Zone, the Calaveras Zone, and the Deer Zone.
SCU Lightning Complex and CZU August Lightning Complex map
SCU Lightning Complex and CZU August Lightning Complex map

CZU August Lightning

  • Updated August 21, 2020 at 4:07 p.m. PDT, Aug. 21
  • Location: South Bay
  • Counties: San Mateo, Santa Cruz
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE San Mateo-Santa Cruz
  • Acres: 50,000 (from live briefing at 6:30 a.m. Aug. 21, and a video briefing at about 8:30 a.m. Aug. 21)
  • Structures destroyed: 50
  • Personnel assigned: 1,026
  • Evacuation information: CAL FIRE CZU Twitter page
  • Notes: Multiple large fires in southern San Mateo County and Northern Santa Cruz County merged and continue to actively burn throughout the day due to low relative humidities, inaccessible terrain, and limited resources, according to the Incident Management Team. Approximately 64,600 people have been evacuated.

River Fire

  • Updated August 21, 2020 at 6:30 a.m. PDT, Aug, 21
  • Location: Five miles south of Salinas, near Pine Canyon Rd. and River Rd.
  • Counties: Monterey
  • Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE San Benito-Monterey
  • Acres: 39,464
  • Structures destroyed: 10
  • Personnel assigned: 696
  • Evacuation information: CAL FIRE San Benito-Monterey Twitter page
  • Notes: The River Fire has not been as active as the other fires.
River Fire map
River Fire map

Multiple fires merge in California’s North Bay area to burn over 215,000 acres

The LNU Lightning Complex of Fires is in Napa, Lake, Yolo, and Solano Counties

August 20, 2020  |  9:05 p.m. PDT

CAL FIRE says the LNU Lightning Complex of fires in the North Bay area of California has now burned 215,000 acres, up from the 131,000 acres announced by the agency Thursday morning. The number of structures destroyed on the complex has risen to 480.

Resources assigned to the fire include, according to CAL FIRE, 9 hand crews, 27 water tenders, 8 helicopters, 69 fire engines, and 28 dozers, for a total of 587 personnel. These are very low numbers for a fire that is closing in on a quarter of a million acres, and are indicative of how firefighting resources are having to be shared among the 367 fires that were found after the lighting bust in California. Many of those firefighters, some of whom are working double shifts, must be feeling the physical and mental strain of this battle that has been going on since Sunday when 72 hours of lighting began.

(To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the lightning-caused wildfires in California, including the most recent, click HERE.)

Resources are coming in from other states, and the U.S. Forest Service has increased the number of available large air tankers from 30 to 32 by bringing on two more military C-130 aircraft equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS). But aircraft can’t put out these fires driven by strong winds, very low humidity, dry vegetation, and near record heat. And smoke has at times decreased the visibility to the point where it was unsafe for them to fly.

Nationwide there are 416 hand crews, 1,507 fire engines, and 194 helicopters working on fires, for a total of 19,812 personnel. Incident Management teams committed in the U.S. include 13 Type 1 and 16 Type 2 teams; in California, 10 Type 1 and 5 Type 2 teams are assigned.


August 20, 2020  |  11:40 a.m. PDT

Map LNU Complex fire fires California Hennessey LNU Complex
Map of the wildfires in the LNU Lightning Complex of fires in California’s North Bay area, updated at 4 p.m. PDT August 19, 2020 by CAL FIRE.

At least seven large fires in California’s North Bay area have merged into one huge megafire. The Hennessey, Gamble, Green, Spanish, 5-10, Morgan, and Markley Fires are now one. It is 43 miles long, from the northeast corner of Yolo County, south across Napa County and into Solano County. The new merged fire is assuming the Hennessy Fire name and is being managed as part of the LNU Lightning Complex of fires that combined has covered 131,000 acres CAL FIRE said Wednesday. The number of acres may go up substantially later on Thursday as more current data is available.

CAL FIRE’s website has gone down at times Wednesday and Thursday, removing one source for critical information about the fire.

The agency said 105 structures (residences, commercial, and other) have been destroyed in the LNU Lightning Complex of fires.

A PG&E worker based in Vacaville died while assisting first responders, said company spokesperson John Kaufman. No further details were released.

A pilot was killed August 19 in the crash of a helicopter while working on the Hills Fire, approximately 9 miles south of the City of Coalinga.

Statewide in California there are 367 wildfires. Most of them started from the 10,800 lightning strikes during a 72-hour period that began Sunday. Shortages of aircraft and firefighters are hampering the suppression of the fires. The current dry, windy, and very hot weather conditions make control of any vegetation fire difficult even when an adequate number of resources are available. Some fires are not being immediately attacked by aircraft if they are a lower priority than another situation where lives are immediately threatened. Firefighters are being asked on some incidents to work back-to-back shifts.

Evacuations

Evacuation orders or warnings are in effect in Napa, Sonoma, and Lake counties. One way to keep up with the ever-changing list is the Twitter feed of CAL FIRE’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit. An estimated 13,254 people have been told to evacuate in Napa County.

West of the fires several communities were evacuated Wednesday evening, including Angwin, Deer Park and other areas. The 50 patients that were at the 151-bed St. Helena Hospital northeast of St. Helena were ordered to be evacuated at about 7 p.m.

All non-essential personnel at Travis Air Force Base south of Vacaville were told Wednesday night to evacuate. They were ordered to not exit through the Main or Hospital Gates, but to instead use the North and South Gates.

Wednesday morning two strike teams of ambulances were mobilized in Fresno and Tulare counties in order to assist with the fires in Napa County. The two strike teams of five ambulances each will have a total of 10 paramedics and 10 EMTs with two paramedic supervisors. They were initially sent to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vacaville. Edgar Escobedo, spokesman for American Ambulance, said their mission will be to respond and stand-by in the event of large-scale evacuations of medical facilities and to support emergency medical services and alternate care sites.

CAL FIRE’s video briefing about statewide fires, and the LNU Complex of fires

LNU Complex of fires -- briefing
LNU Complex of fires — briefing. ABC10.

At a briefing Wednesday the first minute and a half was about the statewide wildfire situation, then they moved on to details about the LNU Complex of fires in Napa, Lake, and Solano Counties of California.

(To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the lightning-caused wildfires in California, including the most recent, click HERE.)