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The pilot dies fighting California forest fires that burned more than 300,000 acres across the state


A pilot was reportedly killed in a helicopter crash while fighting forest fires in central California.

Cal Fire said the helicopter crashed Wednesday morning while on a water drip mission over the Hills Fire in western Fresno County, about nine miles south of Coalinga.

The pilot of the Bell UH-1H helicopter was the only person on board and has not yet been identified. The helicopter was dubbed a "Call When Needed," which means it was privately owned but was contracted to help the government respond to emergencies.

The tragic news came as two dozen major forest fires continued to rage across California – tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated and Governor Gavin Newsom was asked to order a state of emergency.

At least 23 massive fires, some of which were started by lightning strikes and fueled by a historic heat wave and high winds, stretch across Napa, Sonoma, San Mateo and Contra Costa counties and have sparked power outages and unhealthy air quality across the region.

In the past 72 hours, 10,849 lightning strikes have been reported across the country, causing around 367 new fires, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a press conference on Wednesday.

So far, authorities believe the fires burned 300,000 acres and released so much smoke that it is visible from space via satellite imagery.

Travis Air Force Base in Solano County announced the evacuation of all non-mission personnel on Wednesday evening when fires broke out in the area.

A pilot was killed when his helicopter crashed Wednesday morning while on a water drip mission over the Hills Fire in Fresno County. Pictured: A helicopter navigates the smoky skies to dump water over a fire in the Carmel Valley on Wednesday

About two dozen major forest fires are breaking out across the state of California – tens of thousands of people must be evacuated and Governor Gavin Newsom is urged to order a state of emergency. Firefighters attempt to put out the Hennessey fire near Vacaville on Wednesday

In the past 72 hours, 10,849 lightning strikes have been reported across the country, causing around 367 new fires, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a press conference on Wednesday. Pictured: A rare thunderstorm crackles over Mitchell & # 39; s Cove in Santa Cruz at around 3 a.m. on Sunday

In the past 72 hours, 10,849 lightning strikes have been reported across the country, causing around 367 new fires, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a press conference on Wednesday. Pictured: A rare thunderstorm crackles over Mitchell & # 39; s Cove in Santa Cruz at around 3 a.m. on Sunday

In the past 72 hours, 10,849 lightning strikes have been reported nationwide, causing around 367 new fires, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Wednesday. A car burns as firefighters attempt to put out the Hennessey fire near Vacaville, Northern California on Wednesday

In the past 72 hours, 10,849 lightning strikes have been reported nationwide, causing around 367 new fires, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Wednesday. A car burns as firefighters attempt to put out the Hennessey fire near Vacaville, Northern California on Wednesday

84-year-old Bill Nichols is working to save his home when the LNU Lightning Complex burns through Vacaville, California on Wednesday

84-year-old Bill Nichols is working to save his home when the LNU Lightning Complex burns through Vacaville, California on Wednesday

A Santa Barbara County Fire firefighter sets a backburn on Buck Mountain to combat the Carmel Fire near the Carmel Valley

A Santa Barbara County Fire firefighter sets a backburn on Buck Mountain to combat the Carmel Fire near the Carmel Valley

A house goes up in flames when fires with the LNU Lightning Complex ripped through Vacaville on Wednesday

A house goes up in flames when fires with the LNU Lightning Complex ripped through Vacaville on Wednesday

A breathtaking aerial view of the fire shows how the LNU lightning bolt destroyed the mountains of Vacaville and Napa Counties

A breathtaking aerial view of the fire shows how the LNU lightning bolt destroyed the mountains of Vacaville and Napa Counties

This Cal Fire map shows flames raging up and down across the state amid a historic heat wave, fueled by arid conditions, lightning strikes, and gusty winds

This Cal Fire map shows flames raging up and down across the state amid a historic heat wave, fueled by arid conditions, lightning strikes, and gusty winds

The main fires and complexes are burning in California

The LNU lightning complex – named for Cal Fire's Lake Napa unit – is a group of separate fires in Northern California that started in Napa County on Tuesday evening.

The fires have spread to five counties, including Sonoma, Solano and Yolo, and united as they decimated an estimated 46,000 acres. The LNU Lightning Complex was zero percent on Wednesday at 1.40 p.m. PST.

Individual flames within the complex include the Hennessy Fire, Gamble Fire, Green Fire, Markley Fire, Spanish Fire, Morgan Fire, Wallbridge Fire, and Myers Fire.

The SCU lightning complex – named after Cal Fire's Santa Clara unit – consists of 20 different fires that burn in five counties: Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus.

The complex has destroyed at least 85,000 acres and threatens more than 1,400 buildings as it was only five percent contained Wednesday at 3 p.m. PST.

The fires are divided into three zones: Calaveras Zone, Canyon Zone and Deer Zone. On Wednesday evening, officials said they were working to rescue injured civilians in the Canyon Zone.

The CZU August lightning complex consists of five major fires sweeping 10,000 acres in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.

The complex was zero percent contained as of Wednesday at 4 p.m. PST. It contains the 5-15 fire, 5-18 fire, 5-14 fire, Waddell fire, and Warrenella fire.

The river fire in Monterey County has consumed more than 10,000 acres and destroyed at least six buildings since it was triggered by a thunderstorm early Sunday morning.

The fire was about seven percent contained on Wednesday morning and 1,500 buildings remain at risk.

On Wednesday, Governor Newsom announced that there are 23 large fires and "complexes" made up of smaller flames that burn in the state. From Wednesday evening, the CZU August Lightning Complex, the LNU Lightning Complex and the Carmel Fire were included at zero percent.

Much of the fires affected the San Francisco Bay Area, where thick smoke covered the city.

"We're experiencing fires like we haven't seen in many, many years," Newsom said at a press conference, adding that he had requested 375 fire engines from outside the state.

Police and firefighters went door-to-door in a frantic scramble to warn residents about the evacuation on Wednesday before dawn when the LNU Lightning Complex burned in Vacaville, a town of about 100,000 people between San Francisco and Sacramento.

Hours later, the fire broke out, scorched trees and burned animal carcasses.

Vacaville is now under a red flag alert, meaning conditions are ideal for forest fires to spark and spread in hot, dry and windy weather.

"This is an incredibly emotional and stressful time for most of us who have seen a number of wildfires in the past few years," said Mark Essick, Sonoma County sheriff.

"We know this is a trigger for many of you."

60-year-old John Gardiner stayed up all night after receiving an alert from a neighbor shortly before midnight about an oncoming fire. His house and the neighbors' homes were still safe, but he feared that if crews expected hot winds that might change.

"It was amazing – things spun around, winds whipped through like a howling, ripping sound and then you could hear explosions," he said. "You can taste smoke in your mouth."

Victoria Gregorich, 54, said her family loaded the car and left their Vacaville home after MPs came around 12:30 p.m. to tell them to evacuate. The fire destroyed their greenhouse, but the house was spared. Your neighbors weren't so lucky.

"It's devastating," she said. "I thank God, we have our home."

Elvis Castaneda, 28, and his father Silverio spent the night moving the ranch equipment to a safer location, clearing the vegetation, and using their tractor to cause fire outbreaks on their friends' property.

"We couldn't see the flames, but the sky was pretty orange and we knew it was coming," said Elvis Castaneda.

He said he drove home at 3 a.m. and started packing documents, photos, passports and his guns after hearing that his friend's family, who lives two miles away, was told to see all of their farm animals to evacuate and bring to safety. He was ordered to leave after Wednesday morning.

Firefighters said at least 50 buildings were destroyed, 50 damaged and four people were injured.

The LNU Lightning Complex fire rushes through Vacaville while the Woodward Fire at Point Reyes National Seashore scorched 700 acres.

Resident Diane Bustos said she and her husband tried to drive out, but their vehicle burned and they were forced to walk to escape the flames.

“I have all these flames on me and I lost my shoe, but I made it. God saved me, ”she told KPIX-TV.

The LNU Lightning Complex is a group of separate fires in Northern California that stretch across five counties, including Napa, Sonoma, Solano, and Yolo, after they ignited Tuesday night.

Some of the fires are believed to have merged for an estimated 42,000 decimated acres.

Almost 600 firefighters are responsible for fighting this fire alone, as it threatens almost 2,000 buildings.

At around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Travis Air Force Base announced immediate evacuations when the LNU Lightning Complex landed on its campus.

"The 60th AMW commander has ordered the compulsory evacuation of all staff not important for the mission through the north and south gates from Travis AFB with immediate effect," said a Facebook post.

A woman named Mariah tweeted that she had already left base and said the Air Force sent updates about the fires every 15 to 20 minutes.

On Sunday, the step leaders branch from cloud to ground as an early morning storm sweeps across the Santa Rosa Plain near Healdsburg, California

On Sunday, the step leaders branch from cloud to ground as an early morning storm sweeps across the Santa Rosa Plain near Healdsburg, California

Relentless flames have created treacherous conditions for helicopters working to put them out. Pictured: A helicopter pours water over Lake Fire near Lake Hughes, California on Aug. 12

Relentless flames have created treacherous conditions for helicopters working to put them out. Pictured: A helicopter pours water over Lake Fire near Lake Hughes, California on Aug. 12

A firefighter watches a house in Vacaville, California go up in flames from the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex

A firefighter watches a house in Vacaville, California go up in flames from the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex

In this long exposure photo, flames consumed both sides of a section of Lake Berryessa during the Hennessey fire in the Spanish apartment in Napa, Calif., Tuesday

In this long exposure photo, flames consumed both sides of a section of Lake Berryessa during the Hennessey fire in the Spanish apartment in Napa, Calif., Tuesday

A plane drops fire retardant over houses in Napa's Spanish apartment against a fiery orange sky late on Tuesday

A plane drops fire retardant over houses in Napa's Spanish apartment against a fiery orange sky late on Tuesday

An American flag flies in the wind of a burning house in Vacaville during the LNU Lightning Complex fire on Wednesday

An American flag flies in the wind of a burning house in Vacaville during the LNU Lightning Complex fire on Wednesday

An outbuilding burns as fires from the LNU lightning complex broke through the Spanish apartment in unincorporated Napa County

An outbuilding burns as fires from the LNU lightning complex broke through the Spanish apartment in unincorporated Napa County

The devastation of a burned down house in Vacaville during the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex came Wednesday as the state found itself in a state of emergency and was hit by a series of fast-moving fires

The devastation of a burned down house in Vacaville during the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex came Wednesday as the state found itself in a state of emergency and was hit by a series of fast-moving fires

The LNU Lightning Complex is a group of separate fires in Northern California that span five counties, including Sonoma and Napa, that started Tuesday night. Some are believed to have merged for an estimated 42,000 decimated acres. Its devastation in Vacaville up on Wednesday

The LNU Lightning Complex is a group of separate fires in Northern California that span five counties, including Sonoma and Napa, that started Tuesday night. Some are believed to have merged for an estimated 42,000 decimated acres. Its devastation in Vacaville up on Wednesday

A dead cow rests by the roadside after the LNU Lightning Complex fires pierced Vacaville on Wednesday

A dead cow rests by the roadside after the LNU Lightning Complex fires pierced Vacaville on Wednesday

San Mateo Cal firefighter Neil Wild is working to cool some trouble spots in a home that was destroyed Wednesday during the river fire along Pine Canyon Road in Monterey County

San Mateo Cal firefighter Neil Wild is working to cool some trouble spots in a home that was destroyed Wednesday during the river fire along Pine Canyon Road in Monterey County

Some parts of the state, including Vacaville and Napa Counties, are covered in smoke so thick it can be seen from space

Some parts of the state, including Vacaville and Napa Counties, are covered in smoke so thick it can be seen from space

Aerial photography shows clouds of black smoke from thick forest that caught fire at the LNU Lightning Complex Fire in Vacaville and Napa Counties

Aerial photography shows clouds of black smoke from thick forest that caught fire at the LNU Lightning Complex Fire in Vacaville and Napa Counties

WATCH LIVE: Lightning Complex fire antennas in Vacaville and Napa Counties, California.

Posted by WTHR-TV on Wednesday 19th Aug 2020

The officials do not know exactly how many people have been told to leave their homes.

State Senator Bill Dodd, who represents the area, said the fires in Napa and Sonoma counties mainly affected less populated areas.

However, Sonoma County's emergency services director Christopher Godley warned that resources are becoming scarce.

“It's hard to guess what the firefighters are doing with their planes. But it's not like last year when we just saw a huge wealth of resources pouring into the county, ”he said. & # 39; It is what it is. & # 39;

The accumulation of wine country fires threatens an area that only had to contend with another massive fire last year that forced 200,000 people to flee – a task that became more complicated this year due to the pandemic.

In San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, approximately 22,000 people were evacuated because of the CZU Lightning Complex – a group of five major fires that destroyed at least 10,000 acres of densely forested parkland and threatened communities.

"This is a very active wood fire that is burning in two counties and is a serious threat to both public safety and the buildings in front of it," said Jonathan Cox, spokesman for Cal Fire.

To combat this inferno, nearly 600 workers and seven helicopters were deployed. At least three first responders were injured while trying to put out these fires.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Safety said Complex and others exhibited "extreme fire behavior" and challenged firefighters. Some areas have rough terrain and unexpectedly strong winds ignited the flames overnight.

“Across the state of California we're stretched thin for crews right now. Air resources are thinly scattered across the state, ”said Will Powers, a state fire spokesman.

Cox, the Cal Fire spokesman, also said resources are scarce across the state.

"We are in the unfortunate position that firefighters will spend several days on the fire line," he said. "It's exhausting, it's exhausting."

A Huntington Beach firefighter tackles the LNU Lightning Complex fires on Serenity Hills Road in Vacaville on Wednesday

A Huntington Beach firefighter tackles the LNU Lightning Complex fires on Serenity Hills Road in Vacaville on Wednesday

The flames of the LNU Lightning Complex set Interstate 80 in Vacaville on Wednesday as cars flee the area

The flames of the LNU Lightning Complex set Interstate 80 in Vacaville on Wednesday as cars flee the area

A house in Vacaville goes up in flames when the LNU Lightning Complex forced widespread evacuations

A house in Vacaville goes up in flames when the LNU Lightning Complex forced widespread evacuations

During Wednesday's LNU Lightning Complex fires in Vacaville, the fire is moving towards homes south of Serenity Hills Road

During Wednesday's LNU Lightning Complex fires in Vacaville, the fire is moving towards homes south of Serenity Hills Road

Smoke rises from the charred remains of a house on Pleasants Valley Road in Vacaville on Wednesday

Smoke rises from the charred remains of a house on Pleasants Valley Road in Vacaville on Wednesday

Firefighters pour water onto a burning structure during the LNU Lighting Complex Fire on the outskirts of Vacaville

Firefighters pour water onto a burning structure during the LNU Lighting Complex Fire on the outskirts of Vacaville

In East San Francisco Bay, a group of 20 different lightning-induced fires known as the SCU Lightning Complex threatened approximately 1,400 buildings. High winds and low humidity made the firefight a challenge, and at least two first responders were injured.

The fires at the SCU Lightning Complex burned in a relatively remote, dense brush until strong overnight winds on Tuesday pushed them into more populous areas and merged some of the fires.

Blazes devoured rural and wooded areas near the San Francisco Bay Area, near Salinas in Monterey County, around the Oroville Dam north of Sacramento, in wooded areas west of Silicon Valley, in remote Mendocino County, and near the Nevada state line north of Lake Tahoe.

To the south, evacuations have been ordered for all of Boulder Creek west of Silicon Valley, a 5,000-resident community in the Santa Cruz Mountains that can be blocked off windy, long, wooded roads, some paved, some dirty, in storms or light fires . About 6,000 buildings were threatened by the fire.

On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that 23 major fires and complexes were burning in the state. From Wednesday evening, the CZU August Lightning Complex, the LNU Lightning Complex and the Carmel Fire were included at zero percent

On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that 23 major fires and complexes were burning in the state. From Wednesday evening, the CZU August Lightning Complex, the LNU Lightning Complex and the Carmel Fire were included at zero percent

The San Francisco skyline is barely visible on Wednesday due to smoke from forest fires

The San Francisco skyline is barely visible on Wednesday due to smoke from forest fires

A man prepares to hose down a store as the flames of the Hennessey fire blaze through his Spanish apartment in Napa, California on Tuesday

A man prepares to hose down a store as the flames of the Hennessey fire blaze through his Spanish apartment in Napa, California on Tuesday

Horses are in an enclosure as the LNU Lightning Complex blows through the Spanish Flat community in unincorporated Napa County on Tuesday

Horses are in an enclosure as the LNU Lightning Complex blows through the Spanish Flat community in unincorporated Napa County on Tuesday

Members of the Grizzly Firefighters work against the Carmel Fire near Carmel Valley, California on Tuesday

Members of the Grizzly Firefighters work against the Carmel Fire near Carmel Valley, California on Tuesday

Several fires are also burning in Southern California – near Lake Hughes in the mountains of northern Los Angeles County, an eight-day-old fire grew to more than 60 square kilometers.

The fire, chewed through centuries-old fir, oak, and pine trees, continued to threaten 4,570 buildings after destroying a dozen.

A heat wave in the west brought three-digit record temperatures, some of which contributed to the forest fires

A heat wave in the west brought three-digit record temperatures, some of which contributed to the forest fires

Dangerously hot weather and rough terrain challenged firefighters' efforts to increase containment, which is currently estimated at 38 percent.

Almost 45 million people on the west coast are under heat warnings and warnings on Wednesday.

At least seven temperatures were broken in California, hitting triple-digit temperatures – including a staggering 111 degrees, which was measured in Paso Robles on Tuesday.

A few hundred miles east, drought-stricken Colorado faced the second-largest wildfire in history on Wednesday.

The Pine Gulch Flame created its own weather system of thunder and lightning as it burned over 125,100 acres.

It stretches over an area larger than the city of Denver, in remote mountainous terrain, about 20 miles north of Grand Junction, authorities said.

A look at the terrifying fire of the LNU Lightning Complex captured by the Mount Konocti fire camera in Northern California

Rauch steigt aus den Waldbränden des LNU Lightning Complex auf, gesehen von einer AlertWildfire-Kamera, die am Dienstag vom Mount St. Helena nördlich von Calistoga, Kalifornien, nach Osten schaut

Ein Blick auf das Feuer des LNU Lightning Complex, wie es oben von der Mount Konocti-Feuerkamera in Nordkalifornien aufgenommen wurde

Ein Blick auf das Feuer des LNU Lightning Complex, wie es oben von der Mount Konocti-Feuerkamera in Nordkalifornien aufgenommen wurde

Diese Ansicht zeigt, wie brennende Berge in Kalifornien vollständig mit Rauch bedeckt sind

Diese Ansicht zeigt, wie brennende Berge in Kalifornien vollständig mit Rauch bedeckt sind