Bay Area fires kill four, trigger widespread evacuations

Firefighters report a lack of resources hampering efforts to fight flames

Four people have been killed in rapidly growing fires in Napa and Solano counties and widespread evacuations have been ordered as firefighers continue to battle multiple wildfires around the Bay Area thought to have been sparked by lightning earlier this week.

The “LNU Complex” fires, which include the Hennessey Fire in Napa County and the Walbridge and Meyers fires in northern and western Sonoma County, started Monday morning and grew by 60 percent on Thursday alone, from 131,000 acres in the morning to 215,000 acres by 7:3 p.m. with zero percent containment, according to Cal Fire.

The fires had killed four civilians, three of them in Napa County and one in Solano County, destroyed 480 structures, damaged 125 others and threatened 30,500 more by Thursday evening.

Cal Fire officials said Thursday evening that they expected the fires to grow significantly and that they were expecting “extreme fire behavior.”

The Walbridge Fire west of Healdsburg grew to 20,000 acres by evening, from 14,500 Thursday morning, Santa Rosa Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal announced at a Sonoma County community meeting held online Thursday evening. The Meyers Fire north of Jenner reached 3,000 acres. And the largest, the Hennessey Fire north of Lake Berryessa, was at 192,000 and continuing to burn out of control.

Evacuation orders and warnings remained in effect across Napa and Sonoma counties and in Lake County to the north, though they were lifted on Thursday in some parts of Solano County affected by the expanding group of fires.

Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said at the community meeting that fire agencies were coping with an extreme shortage of resources due to the number of fires burning across California.

“There is no more equipment out there,” Gossner said. “The people out on the line have been there since it started.”

Elsewhere in the Bay Area, The University of California campus at Santa Cruz and most of the nearby town of Scotts Valley were ordered evacuated Thursday evening as the group of fires in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties known as the CZU Complex continued burning out of control.

Cal Fire estimates that more than 22,000 people have had to flee the area.

As of Thursday evening this group of fires had grown to 48,000 acres with zero containment, destroyed 50 structures, threatened more than 20,000 and injured two fist responders, according to Cal Fire.

“Fire activity may dictate more evacuations and road closures in the days to come,” Cal Fire said in a statement at 8:40 p.m. “Firefighting resources are limited due to the number of fires burning throughout Northern California. Limited visibility due to smoke is hampering aircraft operations.”

The coastal communities and redwood-studded hillsides of San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties also were under evacuation orders. Towns in those areas include Pescadero, San Gregorio, La Honda and Skylonda. Residents of those areas are encouraged to shelter at Half Moon Bay High School, 1 Lewis Foster Dr., Half Moon Bay.

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