Some residents near the LNU Lightning Complex fire have started to return home, but officials Sunday morning urged people to be ready to evacuate as Northern California braces for more dry winds and lightning in the evening.
The massive collection of fires in the North Bay grew to the second-largest in the state’s history over the weekend, burning 341,243 acres and affecting Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Yolo and Solano counties. As of Sunday afternoon, 845 structures, or buildings, have been destroyed and 231 have been damaged in the area, according to CalFire.
The blazes are 17 percent contained overall, but that progress could be compromised as the same types of storms that started those fires last weekend come back for a second round.
“Any lightning that comes through, based on the fact that we have so many resources that are affected and stretched thin throughout California, it's going to likely result in additional fires,” Shana Jones, CalFire unit chief for Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties said in a briefing Sunday morning. “We do have a plan in order to immediately attack those fires, but it's going to take some work.”
Local officials have developed an alarm, aptly named the “high-low” siren, which alternates between high and lower pitches to alert residents to leave the area. Emergency vehicles are equipped with the sirens, Jon Crawford, undersheriff for Napa County said.
“If you hear the high-low, it is time to go, would be our message,” Crawford said. “We'd also like to remind you that everyone has a sixth sense, and if you find yourself in a situation where you don't feel safe ... please understand that you're empowered to make that decision to leave your property without being instructed to do so. You don't have to wait for us.”
More resources are arriving from outside the state to battle back the growing blazes, according to Sean Kavanaugh, a CalFire incident commander. The state of Washington has sent 15 fire engines to California and Oregon officials have provided 25 engines to help crews fight the various fires and growing lightning fire complexes.
Even so, about 96 percent of the state’s fire engines are still working to stop the spread of the fires, leaving a small number of engines for other emergencies. So far, 1.3 million acres have burned across the state.
“We still have our everyday calls in every jurisdiction, it doesn't matter if it's CalFire or local city jurisdictions,” Kavanaugh said. “Even law enforcement, they still have the calls they have to answer every day and 9-1-1 calls have not stopped, so we're very happy and thankful for those jurisdictions that are helping.”
In Napa and Lake County, the Hennesey fire is currently 287,811 acres and 17 percent contained as of Sunday morning. In Sonoma County the Walbridge fire, which has been merged with the Stewarts blaze west of Healdsburg is 51,072 acres and uncontained. The Meyers fire, north of Jenner, is 2,360 acres and 70 percent contained.
CalFire Chief Ben Nicholos said in a briefing sunday afternoon that the state agency hopes to fully contain the Meyers fire on Sunday night.
CalFire advises residents near the fires to pack belongings in advance and be prepared to leave, particularly as lightning strikes may cause new fires that could spread quickly in the next two days.
Stay up-to-date on evacuation orders for the LNU Lightning Complex by county on the CalFire website.