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California Fires Displace Thousands, Cause Dangerous Air Quality 

Saskia Hatvany

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Map courtesy of https://gispub.epa.gov/airnow/

Hundreds of fires have erupted in California after a rare lightning storm hit the coast during a record heatwave. The fires have caused unhealthy air quality warnings across the state, prompting concerns amid rising cases of COVID-19 — which has killed over 11,000 people in California and is known to cause lung complications. 

The largest blaze, the SCU Lightning Complex Fire, nearly doubled in size overnight, burning 137,475 acres across Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties and causing evacuations. The incident was only 5% contained by Thursday morning.  

North of the Bay Area, the LNU Lighting Complex affected 131,000 acres in Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Yolo and Solano counties as of Thursday morning, and has forced mass evacuations.  The fire had destroyed at least 105 homes and was 0% contained as of Thursday morning, according to CalFire.   

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Tuesday. 

“We are deploying every resource available to keep communities safe as California battles fires across the state during these extreme conditions,” said Governor Newsom in a statement. “California and its federal and local partners are working in lockstep to meet the challenge and remain vigilant in the face of continued dangerous weather conditions.”

Concerns were also raised over the shortage of inmate firefighters whose ranks have been depleted by a massive outbreak of the virus in California prisons, the Sacramento Bee reported in early July.

CalFire predicts possible lighting events for the rest of August and early September, and warns that in Northern California “above-normal large fire potential will persist through October.”

To check the air quality in your area visit: https://gispub.epa.gov/airnow/

 

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