In what has become a yearly ritual in Northern California, tens of thousands of residents have evacuated their homes, with millions more experiencing dangerous levels of smoke and ash in the air, as fires continued to rage across the region, sparked by dry thunderstorms.
The state is currently experiencing the second- and third-largest conflagrations in its history, with the SCU Lightning Complex fire covering 363,772 acres and the LNU Lightning Complex fire engulfing 352,913 acres as of Tuesday morning. More than 1,000 structures have been destroyed, and the number of confirmed fatalities currently stands at seven.
Officials were extremely concerned that Sunday and Monday would bring further lightning storms, stretching overworked and thinly spread firefighting crews past their breaking point, but the last few days have thankfully seen a relative cooling-off. Crews have used the break in the weather to make some (meager) progress: The SCU and LNU complexes have been 15 percent and 27 percent contained, respectively. But Cal Fire, the statewide firefighting agency, warns that beating back this wave could take weeks.
Residents across the region are preparing “go bags” for swift evacuation, clearing 30 foot areas around their homes as a “defensible perimeter” for firefighters, and dealing, however they can, with omnipresent smoke and ash. Even in San Francisco’s Financial District, the skyscrapers were bathed in an odd yellow light and the air smelled like woodsmoke on Monday.