The Associated Press,
Fire crews inched closer to getting some of the largest of 1,420 blazes surrounded, according to the state Office of Emergency Services. Some 364,600 acres -- or almost 570 square miles -- have burned.
But a "red flag warning" -- meaning the most extreme fire danger -- was still in effect for
Lower-than-average rainfall and record levels of parched vegetation likely mean a long, fiery summer throughout northern
The fires burning now were mostly sparked by lightning storms that were unusually intense for so early in the season. But summer storms would probably be even fiercer, according to the Forest Service.
"Our most widespread and/or critical lightning events often occur in late July or August, and we have no reason to deviate from that," the agency's report said.
The blazes have destroyed more than 50 buildings, said Gregory Renick, state emergency services spokesman. More than 19,500 firefighters are battling the blazes and 926 helicopters have been used.
A lightning-sparked wildfire in the
Air quality districts from
A fire in the
On Saturday, President Bush issued an emergency declaration for
Federal aid now includes four Marine Corps helicopters, remote sensing of the fires by NASA, federal firefighters, and the activation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The surrounding ponderosa pine forest has a large number of dead trees, victims of a bark beetle infestation that has killed millions of trees across the West in recent years. About 120 people were evacuated from the town of about 400 scattered homes and summer cabins, said Debbie Maneely, a spokeswoman for the
Evacuation orders were lifted Sunday morning for residents of Tajique in central
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Lightning sparks 800-plus fires in
Rare 'dry lightning' storms brought little rain but plenty of sparks
The Associated Press, June. 25, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO - In less than a day, an electrical storm unleashed nearly 8,000 lightning strikes that set more than 800 wildfires across Northern California a rare example of "dry lightning" that brought little or no rain but plenty of sparks to the state's parched forests and grasslands.
The weekend storm was unusual not only because it generated so many lightning strikes over a large geographical area, but also because it struck so early in the season and moved in from the Pacific Ocean. Such storms usually don't arrive until late July or August and typically form southeast of
"You're looking at a pattern that's climatologically rare. We typically don't see this happen at this time of summer," said John Juskie, a science officer with the National Weather Service in
Thousands of firefighters battled the blazes Tuesday from the ground and air. The lightning-caused fires have scorched tens of thousands of acres and forced hundreds of residents to flee their homes, though few buildings have been destroyed, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
"It's just extremely, extremely dry," Berlant said. "That means any little spark has the potential to cause a large fire. The public needs to be extra cautious because we don't need any additional wildfires."
Despite the many lightning strikes that hit the ground on Saturday alone, the weekend thunderstorm brought little precipitation because the rain evaporated in hot, dry layers of the atmosphere before it hit the ground, Juskie said.
The lightning storm struck
"A combination of lightning and very dry fuels will spark fires," said Mark Strobin, a weather service meteorologist in
Unusual fire season
Even before the lightning struck, California had already seen an unusually large number of destructive wildfires with about 140 square miles burned, compared to about 66 square miles during the same period last year, according to state officials. The fire season typically does not peak until late summer or early fall.
"This doesn't bode well for the fire season," said Ken Clark, a meteorologist in
The weekend's lightning storm combined with extremely dry conditions to spark about 840 separate blazes from the
By contrast, 574 lightning-sparked fires blackened about 86 square miles in
One of the state's worst wildfire years occurred in 2001, when more than 2,000 lightning-caused blazes burned about 289 square miles, according to the
Areas hit the hardest by the weekend thunderstorm include Mendocino County, where 131 fires have burned more than 20 square miles and threatened about 500 homes; Butte County, where 25 fires have burned about 6 square miles and threatened 400 homes; and the Shasta-Trinity Forest, where more than 150 fires have burned about 12 square miles and threatened 200 homes.
The biggest fire burning in
The weather service has said more dry thunderstorms could strike
Several wildfires also were burning in
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
LOS ANGELES - Firefighters worked to contain some 400 wildfires burning across Northern California on Sunday as the state baked under a fourth day of an early summer heat wave that has strained the power grid and left residents wilted.
One structure was destroyed and 150 homes were evacuated near
"The weather is, of course, very hot and dry here, and this fire quickly rolled up into some extremely steep terrain and became inaccessible. We're having trouble establishing control lines," said Battalion Chief David Shew of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
He said the blaze was about 10 percent contained as of Sunday morning and that crews were hoping for a break as triple-digit temperatures began to ease and cooler off-shore breezes returned.
Most of the hundreds of fires scattered across
"Those evil clouds are wreaking havoc across the state," Mike Jarvis, deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said of the dry lightning. "There's no moisture in them and when they hit it's not like they put themselves out."
In a 24-hour period beginning on Friday, some some 5,000 to 6,000 dry lightning strikes were recorded across the region, leaving crews scrambling to keep up with spot fires.
"We do have significant numbers of fires that are completely unstaffed as of yet," Shew said. "We don't have sufficient resources to send to every one of them, so they'll just have to pick them up as we can."
Beaches were swamped with Californians seeking relief, and in