LOS ANGELES – Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide emergency in order to help California respond to the fires burning across the state amid an extreme heat wave.
More than 30 wildfires are burning across California, including nearly a dozen that started in the last two days, according to officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and a Los Angeles Times analysis. Officials have said more rolling blackouts were likely Tuesday afternoon and evening due to power shortages tied to the heat.
While the containment of some fires is increasing, other blazes are being sparked and are growing amid a combination of excessive heat and lightning-fueled thunderstorms induced by a tropical storm in the Pacific Ocean.
In a press release, Newsom’s office said that the state had secured assistance this week from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to fires in Napa, Nevada and Monterey counties.
“We are deploying every resource available to keep communities safe as California battles fires across the state during these extreme conditions,” said Newsom. “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.”
Cal Fire Capt. Richard Cordova said most of the biggest fires – including several in the Central Valley and Northern California – are believed to have been caused by lightning strikes, which can alight dry grasses and brush.
The River fire in Monterey County, which has burned through more than 4,000 acres and is 10% contained, as well as fires in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties – including the CZU August Lightning Complex, which has burned through 1,000 acres and has no containment – pose threats to the population, Cordova said.
The River fire has already destroyed six structures and damaged two others, according to Cal Fire. More than 1,500 structures remain threatened by the blaze that has prompted mandatory evacuations.
“We had this kind of occurrence happen in 2008, where we had numerous lightning strikes and fires in that region,” Cordova said. “It’s a little late in the thunderstorm season, but not a rarity to see these lightning events take place.”
Firefighters are battling flames amid an intense heat wave that began late last week and has set record high temperatures across California. On Sunday, the mercury in Death Valley reached 130 degrees – possibly the highest mercury reading on Earth in almost 90 years.