WILDFIRES

California Wildfires: Prepare To Be Away From Home For Days

Aug 24, 2020, 9:13 PM
NAPA, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 24: Utility workers survey the damage a mobile home park that was destroy...
NAPA, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 24: Utility workers survey the damage a mobile home park that was destroyed by the LNU Lightning Complex fire on August 24, 2020 in Napa, California. The LNU Lightning Complex fire is spread over 5 counties and has burned over 350,000 acres. The massive wildfire has destroyed at least 870 structures and is twenty two percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California fire officials are cautiously optimistic after dodging a major lightning storm, but they are pleading with residents to stay out of evacuation zones and prepare for days away from home as three massive San Francisco Bay Area wildfires rage on, suffocating the region with smoky air.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week will be critical as more than 14,000 firefighters battle 17 major fire complexes, largely in Northern California where wildfires have surrounded the city of San Francisco on three sides, singeing coastal redwoods that have never been burned. The wildfires, all caused by lightning, have been burning for a week.

“We are dealing with different climate conditions that are precipitating in fires the likes we haven’t seen in modern recorded history,” he said Monday.

A warning about dry lightning and gusty winds that could have sparked more fires was lifted for the San Francisco Bay Area on Monday morning, a huge relief to fire commanders who said the weather was aiding their efforts as firefighters pour in from out of state. Temperatures are expected to be hot again this week.

But officials warned the danger was far from over and called the fires complex and large. They admonished residents to stay out of evacuated areas and warned looters they’ll be arrested if caught.

“It is highly dangerous in there still,” said Jonathan Cox, a deputy fire chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, of the blaze north of Santa Cruz. “We have bridges that have failed, old wooden bridges that have failed that may not appear failed” to drivers.

Not knowing whether her home is still standing is the hardest part right now, says Barbara Brandt, a Boulder Creek resident who fled the Santa Cruz area fire Tuesday night.

“The last few days have been a roller coaster,” she said. “You get conflicting reports. You don’t know what your life is going to be like. We don’t know when we can go back, but we know it’s not going to be for a long time.”

When Brandt evacuated with her 94-year-old father, they figured the order was just a precaution. It was smoky, but not the massive complex of fires it is now. Her cats weren’t inside so she left without them, thinking they’d be back soon.

She went back Wednesday to put her cats in the house and feed her chickens. On Thursday, she returned yet again — this time to grab the cats.

North of San Francisco in wine country, Tim Ireland, 48, and Sherri Johnston, 47, were heading back to their destroyed Healdsburg home in Sonoma County to look for one of their dogs. The dog refused to get into the car when they fled.

“We only got out with a car full of clothes, firearms, safe, all our electronic devices, one dog, and two cats,” he said.

California has had more than 13,000 lightning strikes since Aug. 15, sparking more than 600 wildfires statewide that have burned more than 1.2 million acres, or 1,875 square miles (4,856 square kilometers), said Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director with Cal Fire.

The burn area is more than the size of Rhode Island and not quite the size of Delaware.

More than 1,200 buildings have been destroyed although the number is bound to increase as residents are allowed back into neighborhoods and inspectors get a better look at the destruction.

A fifth body was found over the weekend from that wildfire, bringing the death count from the fires to seven. Also, Santa Cruz authorities announced Sunday that the body of a 70-year-old man was found in a remote area called Last Chance. Police had to use a helicopter to reach the remote area of roughly 40 homes at the end of a windy, steep dirt road north of the city of Santa Cruz.

Among the victims was 70-year-old Mary Hintemeyer, of Winters, California, her boyfriend Leo McDermott, and his son, Tom, said Hintemeyer’s son, Robert McNeal.

McNeal told KPIX-TV that he lost contact with his mother Tuesday night as the fires picked up speed. He said his mother had tried to go into town earlier that day but turned back at a roadblock where authorities said if she went through she wouldn’t be allowed back. She returned home to get her boyfriend, who was in a wheelchair.

Authorities found their remains among the ruins on the Napa County property Wednesday, he said.

“Just get out, don’t wait,” McNeal told the TV station, urging people to follow evacuation orders. “If you think it’s going to be too much to get your sprinklers on before you get out of there, forget those too. Forget it. Get out. Just get out. It ain’t worth it.”

A utility worker found unresponsive in his vehicle in Solano County while assisting fire crews also died last week, but authorities have not yet released a cause of death.

Berlant, with Cal Fire, said about 170,000 people remain evacuated after about 50,000 were allowed back into their homes starting Sunday.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Chris Clark said three people were arrested Sunday night from evacuated areas, two on outstanding warrants and one woman “seen walking around with a backpack,” who was in a closed area and was not a local.

The governor on Monday called the reports of looting “repugnant” and applauded prosecutors for taking a tough stance.

The fire in wine country north of San Francisco and another southeast of the city burning in seven counties have grown within a week to be two of the three largest fires in state history, each scorching about 550 square miles (1,425 square kilometers).

The wine country fire has been the most deadly and destructive blaze, accounting for five deaths and destroying 871 homes and other buildings.

___

Associated Press writers John Antczak and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco and Aron Ranen in Healdsburg contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Wildfires

The aftermath of the 15 to 20 acre Magna fire. (Credit: Isaiah Salazar)...
Michael Houck

Firefighters battled against two smaller fires Sunday night

While fire crews battled against the Deuel Creek Fire in Centerville, other first responders handled two other blazes Sunday night.
2 days ago
Chief Craft on Traverse...
Ladd Egan

‘It’s just primed to burn right now’: Lehi fire chief urges caution with fireworks during windy conditions

After the devastating fire in 2020, Lehi fire officials are worried about another blaze hitting their community.
2 days ago
The burn scars of the Deuel Creek Fire....
Jed Boal

‘There’s smoke everywhere’: residents recall evacuating during the Deuel Creek Fire

“I came out running and looked up, and there’s just like smoke everywhere;” residents tell their stories of evacuating late at night during the Deuel Creek fire.
2 days ago
The Deuel Creek Fire burns in the foothills near Centerville Monday morning. (John Wilson/KSL TV)...
Josh Ellis, Karah Brackin & Bonnie Stray, KSL TV

Centerville wildfire ‘most likely’ caused by fireworks; evacuation orders lifted

Dozens of homes were evacuated early Monday morning after a human-caused wildfire spread quickly in the foothills east of Centerville.
2 days ago
The Left Fork fire on 06.20.22 as it's 2608 acres and 5% contained. (Credit: KSL-TV)...
Michael Houck

‘Left Fork Fire’ is 100% contained after a two month battle

The Left Fork Fire is 100% contained but flared up again in mid-June, growing to over 4,000 acres.
4 days ago
A look from Chopper 5 shows just how dry feuls are along the Wasatch Front. (KSL TV)...
Mike Anderson, KSL TV

Chopper 5 shows why firefighters are on high alert for Fourth of July weekend

With plenty of dry brush fireworks, and possible thunderstorms, much of the Wasatch Front is primed with the potential for wildfires.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
California Wildfires: Prepare To Be Away From Home For Days