Firefighters are stretched thin across Northern California as crews continue battling wildfires large and small on over two dozen fronts, in the nine-county Bay Area and beyond. And the still uncontained fire burning into Solano County is now imminently threatening thousands of homes.
The official count of structures and homes destroyed by the LNU Lightning Complex fires in rose to 105 overnight, up from 50 on Tuesday. The complex, by the way, gets its name from the CalFire unit, LNU, that services Lake, Napa, and Sonoma counties — but the complex has also now expanded to Solano County to the east and Yolo to the northeast. As of late Wednesday afternoon, the fire had spread to I-80 in Fairfield and caused the freeway to be closed for several hours as it was jumping across it.
The largest of the complex of fires, the Hennessey Fire, was estimated to have scorched 105,000 acres as of Thursday morning, having begun along with the Gamble Fire on Monday morning as just lightning-caused spot fires in the hills near St. Helena and Lake Berryessa.
And the entire LNU Complex grew to 131,000 acres, or 205 square miles, as of Thursday.
Among the dozens of homes that have already burned in Vacaville was Yin Ranch, the wedding venue and home of the 83-year-old immigrant McDonald's entrepreneur turned philanthropist CC Yin whom ABC 7 had profiled in May after he donated PPE to local healthcare organizations.
On the disconnected western flanks of the complex are the Walbridge Fire north of Guerneville, and the Meyers Fire on the coast north of Jenner. Both grew slightly overnight, and on Wednesday the towns of Guerneville, Rio Nido, and Monte Rio all were evacuated. Parts of the towns of Healdsburg, Windsor, Forestville, and Occidental all remain under evacuation warnings (see map below). The Walbridge Fire stands at around 14,500 acres and is 0% contained; the Meyers Fire is now at 3,000 acres and 0% contained. Just yesterday the Walbridge Fire was around 1,500 acres, and the Meyers Fire was only 25 to 50 acres.
Two people have died in the firefight — one was a Vacaville-based PG&E employee who was helping firefighters on Wednesday, and the other was a helicopter pilot on a water-dropping mission in Fresno County, fighting the Hills Fire south of Coalinga.
The Woodward Fire in Point Reyes grew to 1,500 acres overnight, north of Bolinas, and now threatens some 1,600 structures, as the Marin Independent Journal reports. The fire has doubled in size since Wednesday morning, sending smoke across Marin County and into San Francisco.
Point Reyes Fire, yesterday evening from the Sunset District, SF pic.twitter.com/ftCDlcgcjY— Helmut the Schmidt (@sfhelmut) August 20, 2020
South of San Francisco, in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, the CZU Lightning Complex fires grew to 40,000 acres as of Thursday, and 20 structures have been destroyed, per CalFire. Evacuation orders for these fires included the towns of Pescadero and Boulder Creek, and evacuation are impacting around 22,000 people.
Additionally, as the Mercury News reports, five wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains are either in or near the evacuation zone: Big Basin Estate Vineyards & Winery, Beauregard Vineyards, McHenry Vineyard, Saison Winery and Pescadero Creek Vineyard. In addition to the threat of buildings being lost, this year's entire grape crop could be subject to smoke taint — something that is also going to be a major problem in Napa and Sonoma as well, as these fires are happening well ahead of typical harvest time for red grapes.
Still the largest of the complexes — though perhaps not for long — is the SCU Lightning Complex in the East and South Bays, which spans five counties including Contra Costa, Alameda, and Santa Clara. The disparate group of fires has now burned almost 138,000 acres or 215 square miles, though no structures have yet been destroyed due to the remoteness of the fires' hot spots.
As the Mercury News reports, evacuation orders stemming from the southwestern flank of the fire have now reached San Jose's city limits. See the full list of evacuation orders and warnings here.
Photo of smoke of SF by Ron Eric Dulaney/Facebook