Over one million acres have already been scorched this summer as the California wildfires continue to engulf much of the state. Unfortunately for firefighters, the record heat across the region is only going to get worse this Labor Day weekend.
Current Status of Wildfires: Despite the heat and dry conditions, firefighters are beginning to make significant progress in controlling a few of the biggest blazes. While the fires are spread throughout the state, the biggest current blazes are in the Northern California area. By the end of the day Thursday, the CZU Lightning Complex Fire has been over 50% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. As of Thursday evening, that fire had already burned through over 86,000 acres. This was a gain of more than 600 acres from the previous day. Cal Fire Deputy Chief Jonathan Cox said that they hoped to fully contain the fire within the next day. On Friday, there are still over 8,000 residents who have not been able to return to their homes because of the evacuation efforts. Read on for more details.
The good news is that there has been no growth in both the SCU and LNU lightning complex fires over the last day. These fires have already burned 391,578 acres and 375,209 acres, respectively. Thursday’s crew was able to boost the containment of the SCU fire to 86% and the LNU fire to 80%. These massive fires are now the second and third largest blazes that have ever been recorded in California.
As of Friday, six people have lost their lives as a result of the fires in Northern California. Three of the deaths were in Napa County, two in Solano County, and one in Santa Cruz County. Along with 10 reported injures, the three major fires have destroyed over 3,000 total structures.
Scorching Heat: Not helping the effort to control the fires is the forecast this weekend. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the extreme heatwave will set in on Friday. The hottest day of the weekend across most of the state is expected to be Sunday, with forecasted temperatures as high as 115 degrees in some inland areas. California could see over 125 record highs set on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
Record warm low temperatures are also possible. In the Los Angeles area, overnight temperatures may stay in the 80s. Death Valley is expected to see highs of 125°F for consecutive days starting on Friday and continuing through Monday
The NWS is warning Californians that this weekend’s heat could be even worse than the recent August heatwave that prompted multiple instances of rolling blackouts across much of Southern California.
State of Emergency Declared: In response to the expected extreme weather, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a proactive emergency proclamation on Thursday. The goal of the declaration is to boost the Golden State’s energy capacity so that residents will not be left in the dark. The proclamation came after many of the state’s major utility companies warned that the predicted heat would push power grids to the brink.
As part of the proclamation, power plants are allowed to temporarily suspend some permitting requirements so that the state’s energy grid is not under as much pressure. To reduce the stress on the state’s power supply, government officials are asking residents to limit their use of major appliances, turn off unnecessary lights, close all blinds and drapes, and set thermostats to no less than 78 degrees during the time period of a flex alert.
In anticipation of the weekend heatwave, Los Angeles County is opening a number of cooling centers for residents without air conditioning to escape the high temperatures.