Lightning sparks fires across Northern California

Lightning sparks fires across Northern California

6 August 2009

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USA — Lightning strikes around Northern California have caused more than 50 new fires since Wednesday afternoon, including several in Covelo and areas of the Mendocino National Forest, fire officials said Thursday.

More than 800 strikes have been reported, most of them after about 4 p.m. Wednesday and then redeveloping around dawn Thursday morning, fire officials said.

But most of the lightning has come with rain – even hail, in some cases – creating a drastically different situation from June 2008, when thousands of dry lightning strikes ignited more than 2,000 wildland fires around the region, setting much of California on fire.

“All the fires are in some state of containment because we received moisture with most of them,” said Mike Lacoco, intelligence officer for the Northern California Geographic Area Coordination Center. “It’s not anything like last year.”

No lightning strikes or fires had been reported in Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit as of 9:30 a.m.

In Mendocino County’s Covelo area, firefighters had at least four fires to deal with, including a residential water pump house and an electrical power transformer, sending crews to and fro around the valley, fire personnel said.

“I don’t think it makes a difference: dry lightning, wet lightning, you’re still going to get fires,” Lt. Firefighter Tammy Buckley with the Covelo Volunteer Fire Department said.

The lightning started as early as 5 a.m., but it wasn’t until after 8 in the morning that any of the fires was reported, she said.

Of 50 fires confirmed around the state by 8:45 a.m. Thursday, only about 75 percent were being attended by firefighters, Lacoco said. The other 25 percent had yet to be staffed, he said.

The new fires are being added to several large blazes sparked by lightning Aug. 1, including a complex of fires totaling more than 12,700 acres in and around the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and another 10,000 acre fire in the nearby Lassen National Forest, Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency, said.

There remained a chance of lightning strikes on and off throughout Thursday in Sonoma County and the rest of Northern California, though most of it will be west of Highway 5, Lacoco said.

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