Firefighters are battling 560 blazes across California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Friday. As of Friday evening, the fires have collectively spread across over 800,000— an area roughly the size of Rhode Island.
At least five people have died: one resident of Solano County, three in Napa County, and a pilot on a water-dropping mission in Fresno County, according to the Associated Press.
The fires started after nearly 12,000 bolts of lightning struck the state in a 72 hour period, Newsom said in a statement on Friday evening. On Tuesday, Newsom declared a statewide emergency, noting that while the lightning likely ignited many of the fires, gusty winds and a statewide heatwave have exacerbated them.
“We are deploying every resource available to keep communities safe as California battles fires across the state during these extreme conditions,” he said.
Nearly 12,000 firefighters have been deployed to fight the wildfires and California is relying on help from other states across the country.
On Friday, Newsom also announced that the state is looking abroad for help as the situation intensifies and has asked for assistance from Australia and Canada to combat the wildfires.
California is currently battling 20 major fires, Newsom said — the largest and fastest-moving are in Northern California.
The biggest is the SCU Lightning Complex Fire in the Bay Area. The complex — a term for multiple fires in one region — began Tuesday morning and has since expanded to encompass nearly 300,000 acres across five counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus. The fire, which is 10% contained, has already become the fourth largest in state history. The fire has injured at least two people and prompted evacuation orders in four of the five affected counties. (San Joaquin is the only one without such orders.)
Farther north, firefighters are battling a giant cluster of six fires known as the LNU Lightning Complex Fire, which has burned more than 302,000 acres in Napa, Sonoma, Lake, and Solano counties, according to Cal Fire. The fire complex injured two emergency workers and two civilians. At least 480 buildings have been destroyed and another 125 damaged. As of Friday evening, the fire was 15% contained. It’s currently the second largest fire in California history.
Meanwhile, in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire has prompted evacuation orders for 64,600 people, injured at least three people, and destroyed 50 structures. The fire began in the Santa Cruz Mountains and has expanded to at least 57,000 acres. The fire is at 2% containment.
Two additional fires in Monterey county, the Carmel and River fires, have quickly grown to over 44,000 acres collectively, destroying 38 structures, injuring at least four people, and prompting about 9,000 evacuations.
Forecasting experts from the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office said in an urgent fire weather message on Friday that the situation could worsen as dry thunderstorms bring more lightning and wind over the weekend.