Changing weather raised concerns on Sunday over new fires breaking out in California overnight and state and local officials have warned residents to prepare to evacuate their homes.
“There’s not a feeling of pure optimism but a feeling of resolve, a feeling of we have resources backing us up,” Sonoma county supervisor James Gore said.
Firefighters have been battling three "complexes" of fires resulting from high winds, temperatures, and lightning in Northern California.
Progress was steady on Saturday, with good weather aiding firefighter's efforts despite smoky skies that prevented water-dropping aircraft from flying at low altitude. Evacuation orders were lifted in some areas as reinforcements came to help the overwhelmed servicemen.
US President Donald Trump issued a disaster declaration on Saturday and offered federal assistance. Governor Gavin Newsom said that the support will provide crisis counseling, housing, and other social services to those in the afflicted areas.
Firefighters have been struggling throughout the week to tackle the two largest clusters of fires near the San Francisco Bay area due to low resources.
“All of our resources remain stretched to a capacity that we have not seen in recent history”, said Shana Jones, CalFire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit chief.
The fire in California’s wine country had only 1,400 firefighters assigned. A significant decline in manpower compared to the 5,000 who fought the fire in Mendocino in 2018 - the largest in state history.
So far, 1,120 square miles have been burned, after emerging from three clusters of fires that spread throughout the forest and rural areas in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.
There have been at least 10,800 lightning strikes across California in the past 72 hours, sparking at least 367 fires. Officials are calling it "a historic lightning siege."— Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) August 21, 2020
This is what a #climatecrisis looks like. No planet B. #ActOnClimate#CaliforniaFires #ClimateEmergency pic.twitter.com/Jhz4oj2Ila
Ancient redwood trees in California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods, and park’s headquarters and campgrounds have all fallen victim to the fire. People were also forced to stay indoors due to smoke which caused the air quality to become dangerous.
So far, five people have died as a result of the fires, with 700 homes and other buildings destroyed, while tens of thousands have fled their homes.