By Annika Henthorn
How could we forget about California’s fifth season, fire season. With an apocalyptic haze that stretches across the bay area, concealing both hope and sunshine, these relentless fires are impossible to ignore. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, a record-breaking 2 million acres of California has been burned. Firefighters have been working around the clock to reach full containment; however, it continues to eat its way through California, propelled by a perfect storm of lightning and relentless heat.
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, told The San Francisco Chronicle that “the geographic scale and intensity of what is transpiring is truly jarring.” Fire season has become the new norm; however, the caliber of these fires is a pressing issue. Governor Gavin Newsom released a statement, saying in part, that “if you are in denial about climate change, come to California.”
SCU Lightning Complex Fire The Santa Clara Unit fire, sparked by lightning, has ransacked its way through five counties including Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus. According to Cal Fire, since its ignition on August 18th, the fire has engulfed over 396,624 acres, and because of its unmatched intensity, it has been deemed the second largest wildfire in California history. Thankfully there have been no fatalities. Nonetheless, Cal Fire has recorded five injuries, in addition to the 224 structures destroyed by the fire. On September 15, it was reportedly 98% contained.
LNU Lightning Complex Fire Lightning North Complex fires refers to the fires in North Bay induced by lightning. Much of Wine Country in Northern California, consisting of Napa, Sonoma, Solano, and a few other counties, was decimated in the fire. Cal Fire has reported 375,209 acres scorched and a total of five fatalities thus far. According to NBC Bay Area, three of the five killed in the fire were Mary Hintemeyer, her boyfriend Leo McDermott, and his son Tom McDermott. They tragically passed when the fire traversed through Napa County. The LNU Complex Unit Chief Shana Jones says that "the size and the complexity of this fire is not one that we have seen in times past." Although fires have always been a common threat of California, its severity has become increasingly harder to manage. CNBC disclosed that the Hennessy Fire, a prominent threat in Napa and lake counties, has blazed 317,909 acres; however, it has reported 91% containment. Within Sonoma county, NBC also addressed that “the Walbridge Fire is 54,940 acres, with 95% containment.” In total, the LNU Complex fire has reached 97% containment.
CZU Lightning Complex Fire Ripping through Santa Cruz and San Mateo county, the CZU Lightning Complex fire, a title for the collective fires in those counties, has ravaged 86,509 acres as stated by Cal Fire. Although it started August 16, as of September 15 it has reached 91% containment. According to NBC Bay Area, the CZU fire has “prompted evacuation orders for more than 77,000 people” and devastated 925 homes. The Santa Cruz Sentinel disclosed that 73-year-old Tad Jones was killed in the fire. However, Cal Fire has revealed that his death has been the only fatality in this monumental fire.
The dangerous partnership of heat and lightning meshed to form an insatiable, fire-breathing monster, devastating the lives of those it crossed. Climate change simply egged it on. As we have watched the symptoms of this fire unfold through our windows, computers, or even first-hand, we have the ability to help during these trying times. Organizations like the Red Cross or Salvation Army all need donations or volunteers to help with food donations and finding shelter for victims. With so much chaos in the world, let’s be the good.
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Ryan Ford '23,