Path to ZeroEnergyClimate ChangeElectric VehiclesSupply Chains

Photos of California’s fires reveal massive destruction across the state

August 21, 2020, 11:09 PM UTC

Northern California is fighting off a a series wildfires that have scorched 771,000 acres and continue to threaten parts of the state.

More than 560 fires have started, from Santa Cruz to Napa to Vacaville, mostly caused by what California officials have described as a “historic lightning siege.” A heat wave has exacerbated the problem.

US-CALIFORNIA-WILDFIRE-FIRE
People watch the Walbridge Fire, part of the larger LNU Lightning Complex fire, from a vineyard in Healdsburg, Calif. on Thursday.
JOSH EDELSON—AFP/Getty Images

So far, five people have died in the fires and more than 119,000 others have had to evacuate from their homes. Cal Fire, the state’s fire authority, continues to battle the fires, including some of the largest in recent state history. One fire burned through Big Basin State Park, home of redwood trees, some of which are more than 1,000-years old.

US-CALIFORNIA-WILDFIRE-FIRE
An aircraft drops fire retardant on a ridge during the Walbridge fire, part of the larger LNU Lightning Complex fire as flames continue to spread in Healdsburg, Calif., near Napa, on Thursday.
JOSH EDELSON—AFP/Getty Images

Air quality across in Northern California continues to be an issue with some areas near Santa Cruz and San Jose reporting some of the world’s worst pollution levels on Friday. And the state is struggling to provide enough firefighters to help contain the blazes. During previous wildfires, California has used state prison inmates who volunteer for reduced sentences and a small amounts of money. But this year, access to those volunteers has dwindled as coronavirus outbreaks in prisons requires many inmates to be quarantined. 

US-CALIFORNIA-WILDFIRE-FIRE
A man trying to save a home in Vacaville, Calif., watches as it goes up in flames on Wednesday..
Karl Mondon—MediaNews Group/The Mercury News/Getty Images

Earlier this week, California called for support from surrounding states to fight the fires. Ten have said they would send help.

US-CALIFORNIA-WILDFIRE-FIRE
A resident runs into a home to save a dog while flames are getting close as the Hennessey fire continues to rage out of control near Lake Berryessa, near Napa, earlier this week.
JOSH EDELSON—AFP/Getty Images

At a news conference on Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said fires at the SCU Lightening Complex and the LNU Lightening Complex, which have burned nearly 450,000 acres combined, rank as the seventh and tenth largest fires in recent state history. He also said the weekend is expected to bring “monsoon-type weather conditions,” which could complicate matters.

Flames surround Lake Berryessa during the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Napa, California on August 19, 2020.
JOSH EDELSON—AFP/Getty Images
US-CALIFORNIA-WILDFIRE-FIRE
Windy Hill Open Space Preserve of San Mateo County shows the dense smoke of wildfires in San Francisco Bay Area on Wednesday.
Dong Xudong—Xinhua/ Getty Images