California fire crews joined aircraft from North Carolina and other states Tuesday to battle hundreds of lightning-caused wildfires across the northern part of the state.
One of the fires started by weekend thunderstorms had already blackened more than 10,000 acres – nearly 16 square miles – in a rural area of Lake County, about 120 miles north of San Francisco. No homes had been destroyed, but officials said voluntary evacuations were in place for residents of 36 homes.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he was told late Sunday evening that the state had 520 fires, and he found it “quite shocking” that by Monday morning the number had risen above 700.
Moments later, a top state fire official standing at Schwarzenegger's side offered a grim update. The figure was actually 842 fires, said Del Walters, assistant regional chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. All but a couple were in the northern part of the state.
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“This is an unprecedented lightning storm in California, that it lasted as long as it did, 5,000 to 6,000 lightning strikes,” Walters said. “We are finding fires all the time.”
A blaze that started in Napa County moved into Solano County as it burned over more than 6 square miles. It was 60 percent contained, said Kevin Colburn, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
No homes have been destroyed, and voluntary evacuations about 40 miles southwest of Sacramento have been lifted.
A blaze that had charred nearly 6 square miles in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest about 160 miles north of Sacramento was a threat to about 1,200 homes and several youth camps.