Northern California wildfire now 2nd-largest ever as total blazes scorch nearly 1M acres

By Minyvonne Burke and Dennis Romero

A massive wildfire in Northern California has grown to become the second-largest in state history as it and hundreds of other blazes have now scorched nearly one million acres.

The LNU Lightning Complex Fire that is burning across five counties — Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Yolo and Stanislaus — has spread to more than 341,000 acres, officials said Sunday. It was 17 percent contained.

"This entire LNU Complex is now the second-largest wildland fire in state history," said Sean Kavanaugh, incident commander with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The largest wildfire was the Mendocino Complex that burned more than 459,000 acres in 2018.

The LNU Complex blaze, named for Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit, has destroyed 845 structures and damaged 231 more.

On Saturday afternoon, President Donald Trump declared the state was being impacted by a major disaster, a move that makes federal funds available to fire victims in seven counties.

"Thank you to the President for your partnership and granting this urgent Major Disaster Declaration," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. "California is battling two of the largest fires in our history and has seen nearly 600 new fires in the last week caused by dry lightning strikes."

Many of the fires raging in the state were sparked by a large number of lightning strikes as California is in the grip of a heatwave.

"In 1987, for the entire year, there was around 11,000 lightning-strike fires," Cal Fire spokesman Jeremy Rahn said at the news conference Saturday. "As of now, it's over 12,000."

More than 100 of the lightning strikes occurred Friday.

The National Weather Service issued a fire weather warning Saturday for areas from the northern Monterey Bay to the Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco. Lighting could impact those communities Sunday into Monday, the NWS said in an alert.

"Lightning will likely spark new fires across the region, including remote areas," it said.

The state now has more than 585 wildfires, which have burned nearly a million acres, Rahn said.

On Friday, Cal Fire Assistant Deputy Director Daniel Berlant said that the fires had scorched more than 771,000 acres, which he said is "roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island."

Source: NBC News

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