LOS ANGELES | Thousands of people fled their homes on Wednesday in northern California, an area ravaged by multiple rapidly growing fires.
In Vacaville, a town of about 100,000 people located between San Francisco and Sacramento, the capital of California, residents were called to flee in the middle of the night as flames fanned by high winds devoured dozens of homes.
Many were woken up by neighbors or firefighters desperately banging on their doors and left simply dressed in their pajamas. Some suffered burns in their flight.
“If you are asked to evacuate, please do so safely,” Vacaville police said on Twitter. “Almost all of our response units are mobilized to evacuate, protect residents and fight fires.”
Hundreds of fires
Evacuation orders were also issued in other counties, such as the famous wine regions of Sonoma and Napa, where hundreds of lightning-ignited fires were advancing out of control.
Charred vegetation, cars and homes ravaged by flames: the fires have devoured more than 20,000 hectares in the region in recent days, according to the authorities.
A helicopter pilot participating in fire operations in Fresno County, southeast of San Francisco, was killed when his aircraft crashed to the ground while trying to drop water on the flames.
“We are currently fighting 367 fires,” tweeted California Governor Gavin Newsom, who declared a state of emergency to facilitate access to funds.
“Lightning has struck 10,849 times in California in the past 72 hours and (the state has had) WORLD RECORDS in heat,” he said.
North and south of San Francisco are two of the largest blazes listed by firefighters: the SCU Lightning Complex and the LNU Lighning Complex, encompassing multiple fires that have broken out since Monday.
Governor Newsom on Tuesday announced the state of emergency to “ensure the availability of vital resources to fight” the fires, “reinforced by the effects of the historic heat wave on the west coast and sustained winds.”
Mr. Newsom said Nevada, Arizona and Texas will be sending firefighters to help California.
California Fire Department spokesman Jeremy Rahn warned his teams were reaching their limits.
“Firefighting resources are dwindling as new fires continue to ignite,” Rahm said at a press conference. “The size and complexity” of these disasters “poses a challenge to all aspects of emergency service response,” he said.
California has been experiencing an unprecedented heat wave for a week. Death Valley on Sunday recorded a record high temperature of 54.4 ° C which could become, if approved, the third highest temperature on Earth.
Nearly 55,000 people are also deprived of power, according to the Poweroutage.us site, many electrical installations suffering from overheating.
Several fires were also recorded in Colorado, where hot, dry weather fueled the flames.
Fires have become more frequent and larger in California in recent years, partly due to climate change.
The deadliest blaze in California history, dubbed Camp Fire, occurred in November 2018 in the upstate and left 86 people dead.