California wildfires: Governor requests international help to fight blazes
Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes after wildfires destroyed nearly 700 structures in northern and central California. Concern is growing that further lightning strikes will cause more blazes.
State resources stretched
Fire crews, surveillance equipment and other firefighting hardware has been despatched from Oregon, New Mexico and Texas to help fight the fires. "We simply haven't seen anything like this in many, many years," California Governor Gavin Newsom said, calling for Canada and Australia to send resources and support. "These fires are stretching our resources, our personnel.”
President Donald Trump has declared the fires a major disaster. The move allows federal funds to be used to help businesses and people affected by the fires, for example by providing crisis counseling and housing to victims.
The first fires broke out close to Los Angeles on August 12. Others have flared and spread through brushland, rural areas, canyon country and dense forest surrounding San Francisco. Two of the blazes are among the largest in California's history, and have each burned as much as 300 square miles (777 square kilometers).
Firefighting aircraft deployed
Overall, the state has responded to 585 wildfires that have burned through nearly a million acres (about 4,046 square kilometers). Planes have been deployed to drop fire retardant and help put out blazes. The wildfires have already killed six people, injured more than 30 others and forced more than 120,000 people from their homes.
Doubling in size
Some blazes have doubled in size within just a day. Many of them were sparked by lightning strikes from thousands of brief thunderstorms that have hit the state since the weekend. One major fire (pictured) broke out near Vacaville, which lies between San Francisco and Sacramento. Fire crews that would normally work 24-hour shifts are putting in 72 hours at a time.
The fires have already destroyed 700 structures, including many homes, and are threatening 50,000 more, according to fire officials. The University of California, Santa Cruz has also been evacuated, and a new fire burning near Yosemite National Park prompted residents to flee.
Size of New York
Not even California's famous wine country south of Sacramento has been spared by the wildfires. The largest fire, known as the SCU Complex, east of Palo Alto, has now spread across 359 square miles, an area approaching the size of New York City.
Fires seen from space
A SWIR infrared satellite image shows the LNU Lightning Complex wildfire burning near Healdsburg in Sonoma County, in wine country. The fires are some of the largest in the state's history. Emergency officials admit firefighting efforts have been hampered by a shortage of resources, which are stretched statewide.