California lightning complex wildfires reach record levels of damage

Tens of thousands of structures destroyed, but actual number could be much higher as fires spread

California lightning complex wildfires reach record levels of damage

Catastrophe & Flood

By Lyle Adriano

Ongoing wildfires in Northern California have grown to such levels that two of the largest fires have been declared the state’s second and third largest on record.

The fires were started by what the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) calls the “August Lightning Siege.” On August 17, lightning strikes started hundreds of fires across the region, and those fires began to spread over the past week.

Cal Fire has reported that since the August Lightning Siege began, 1.2 million acres of land has burned. The Guardian said that as of August 24, 7,002 fires still burn in California. Two of the biggest fires – the SCU Lightning Complex Fire (named after Cal Fire’s Santa Clara Unit) and the LNU Lightning Complex Fire (named after the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit) – have ranked as the second and third largest fires in California’s history, respectively.

As of August 24, 2020, the SCU Lightning Complex Fire has burned more than 360,055 acres across five counties: Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus. According to Cal Fire’s website, 15% of the SCU Lightning Complex Fire has been contained.

Meanwhile, the LNU Lightning Complex Fire had spread to about 351,817 acres across Napa, Lake, Solano and Sonoma counties as of August 24, Cal Fire reported. About 17% of the fire had been contained. The fire has been confirmed to have destroyed 845 structures and damaged another 231.

By comparison, the largest wildfire in California’s history, the Mendocino Complex Fire, burned more than 459,000 acres in 2018.

Since the lightning complex wildfires began, at least 12,000 structures were estimated to have been destroyed, The Guardian reported. California Governor Gavin Newsom noted that the number of structures destroyed is only what has been reported, and the actual number could be much higher.

The governor also announced that 298 lightning strikes caused 10 new fires over the weekend, which was less than the number experts had predicted – but more lightning is predicted to come.

Seven people have been killed due to the wildfires.

Following the extensive damage caused by the wildfires, Donald Trump has issued a major disaster declaration for California. The declaration will release federal financial assistance for the state, to be used for crisis counseling, housing, and other social services. Forbes reported that the IRS is giving wildfire victims an extension, giving them until December 15 to file tax returns and make tax payments.


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