AS FIRES BURN, CALIFORNIANS TOLD TO PREPARE FOR DAYS AWAY FROM HOME
SAN FRANCISCO — California fire officials are cautiously optimistic after dodging a major lightning storm, but they are pleading with residents to stay out of evacuation zones and prepare for days away from home as three massive San Francisco Bay Area wildfires rage on, suffocating the region with smoky air.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week will be critical as more than 14,000 firefighters battle 17 major fire complexes, largely in Northern California where wildfires have surrounded the city of San Francisco on three sides, singeing coastal redwoods that have never been burned. The wildfires, all caused by lightning, have been burning for a week.
“We are dealing with different climate conditions that are precipitating in fires the likes we haven’t seen in modern recorded history,” he said Monday.
A warning about dry lightning and gusty winds that could have sparked more fires was lifted for the San Francisco Bay Area on Monday morning, a huge relief to fire commanders who said the weather was aiding their efforts.
But officials warned the danger was far from over.
“It is highly dangerous in there still,” said Jonathan Cox, a deputy fire chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, of the blaze north of Santa Cruz. “We have bridges that have failed, old wooden bridges that have failed that may not appear failed” to drivers.
Not knowing whether her home is still standing is the hardest part right now, says Barbara Brandt, a Boulder Creek resident who fled the Santa Cruz area fire.
“The last few days have been a roller coaster,” she said. “You get conflicting reports. You don’t know what your life is going to be like. We don’t know when we can go back, but we know it’s not going to be for a long time.”