In mid-August, 2020, an unusual heat wave fixated over California, leading to a series of lightning storms across the state and numerous wildfires. Hundreds of thousands of acres were burned and tens of thousands of residents were forced to evacuate their homes. Below is an account of how the fires spread and officials responded to the emergency.
Read the previous updates from Sept. 4-5
Updates from Monday, Sept. 7:
10:30 p.m. Sonoma County Sheriff issues new evacuation order and warning near Walbridge Fire: Flare-ups from the Walbridge Fire Monday night prompted a mandatory evacuation order for Zone 2E4, south of Mill Creek Road, north of Sweetwater Springs Road, west of Westside Road, and east of Palmer Creek Road. An evacuation warning was issued for Zone 1D5, north of the Russian River, east of Armstrong Woods Road, west of Westside Road and south of Sweetwater Springs Road. Cal Fire said forward progress of the fire had been stopped. However, a red flag warning for high winds is in effect in the area. First responders were going door to door to assist. View the interactive evacuation map and search by address at https://arcg.is/0buuL1
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8:19 p.m. Creek Fire rescue attempt unsuccessful: Heavy smoke conditions prevented a helicopter rescue of people trapped by the Creek Fire, the Fresno Fire Department reported. Military pilots flying Chinook helicopters and using night vision attempted to rescue the trapped hikers and campers near Lake Edison and in China Peak.
8:10 p.m. Napa County confirms shut-offs, lists resource centers: Napa County officials sent out a Nixle alert confirming PG&E’s planned power shut-offs. PG&E is opening three resource centers at the following locations: Pacific Union College, 1 Angwin Ave., Angwin; Highlands Christian Fellowship, 970 Petrified Forest Rd., Calistoga; Saint Helena Catholic School, 1255 Oak Ave., St. Helena. Face coverings are required and hand-washing stations will be offered. Wi-Fi, bottled water, snacks and device charging facilities will be available.
7:09 p.m. PG&E fire-prevention shut-offs start tonight: Pacific Gas and Electric Co. officials said they plan to shut off power to approximately 172,000 customers — more than 500,000 people — in more than 20 counties, including Sonoma and Napa in the Bay Area. The preemptive blackouts, which start tonight and may run through late Wednesday, are due to bone-dry vegetation and strong offshore winds forecast to begin Monday night, creating an extreme risk for fires. About 15,000 people in Napa County (in Calistoga, Saint Helena and unincorporated areas) and over 50,000 in Sonoma County (in unincorporated areas) will be affected.
6:49 p.m. U.S. 101 closed at Willits: The highway is closed due to the fast-spreading Oak Fire in Mendocino County “from its juncture with State Route 162 near Longvale to the North Willits on-ramp,” according to Caltrans. For detour information, click here.
3:54 p.m. Creek Fire expected containment by Oct. 15: Cal Fire expects to fully contain the fast-moving Creek Fire by Oct. 15. The blaze has grown to 78,790 acres and threatens 5,296 structures. Fuel are the “main influence of the fire, with the heavy fuel loading from the dead and downed material,” Cal Fire said. The timber in the area where the fire is burning has 80-90% tree mortality due to bark beetle.
3:48 p.m. Forest Service temporarily closes Southern California national forests: The Forest Shut temporarily shut down national forests throughout the state, including Stanislaus National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, Inyo National Forest and Los Padres National Forest. The closure is due to the threat of “unprecedented and dangerous fire conditions with a combination of extreme heat, significant wind events, dry conditions, and firefighting resources that are stretched to the limit,” according to the forest service. Other closures include the Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest and Cleveland National Forest. The closure will go into effect 5pm Monday and will be re-evaluated daily. In addition, all campgrounds and day-use sites in all California national forests will be closed, and the use of stoves, fires or other equipment that could ignite is barred.
3:43 p.m. PG&E might shut off power in 21 counties: Officials with the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said Monday that power could be shut off for 158,000 customers — roughly 474,000 people — in 21 counties, including Sonoma and Napa counties. Most of the counties that could experience a shut-off are in the Sierra Foothills. The power shut-off wouldn’t occur until late Monday evening.
3:41 p.m. Spare the Air Alert in Bay Area extended through Wednesday: A Spare the Air Alert was extended through Wednesday in the Bay Area due to the smog and smoke from wildfires.
2:20 p.m. Yosemite closes Mariposa Grove: Though the national park remains open, “Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is closed as a precaution in case the #CreekFire crosses into the park,” the Park Service tweeted.
1:58 p.m. Evacuations ordered in Mendocino County after new fire reported: The Mendocino County Sheriff ordered evacuations Monday afternoon in the community of Booktrails after a small 5-acre called the Oak Fire threatened structures. Big John Road, Sky View Road, First Gate Road and Schow Road to Ryan Creek Road were ordered to leave immediately. Cal Fire reported that the blaze has a “rapid rate of spread.”
12:40 p.m. Evacuation ordered for Auberry due to the Creek Fire: The Fresno County Sheriff ordered a mandatory evacuation for the town of Auberry extending from the San Joaquin River on Powerhouse Road to Auberry Road in both directions out to Highway 168.
11:41 a.m. Firefighters now battling 23 major fires: Cal Fire said 14,800 firefighters were battling 23 major fires in the state, the Associated Press reported. California has seen 900 wildfires since Aug. 15, many of them started by an intense series of thousands of lightning strikes. The blazes have burned more than 1.5 million acres (2,343 square miles). There have been eight fire deaths and more than 3,300 structures destroyed.
11:04 a.m. Evacuation orders expand in Sierra. Evacuation orders expanded to more mountain communities Monday as the Creek Fire continued to roar through California’s Sierra National Forest. Although firefighters working through the night were able to save the tiny town of Shaver Lake, about 30 homes were destroyed to the north, in the remote hamlet of Big Creek, according to the Associated Press.
10:56 a.m. SCU reaches 93% containment: The SCU Lightning Complex fires that have burned 396,624 acres across five Northern California counties, including Alameda, Santa Clara and Stanislaus, were 93% contained Monday morning, according to Cal Fire. The fires have destroyed 222 structures, damaged 26 structures and injured five people.
10:20 a.m. CZU fire reaches 76% containment: Firefighters reached 76% containment on the CZU Lightning Complex Monday morning. Firefighters are bracing for hot weather and low humidity this week, as winds begin to pick up later today. The fire, which has burned 86,509 acres across San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, has destroyed 925 residences and caused one fatality, according to CalFire.
9:55 a.m. LNU fires reach 91% containment: The LNU Lightning Complex fires that have burned 375,209 acres across several northern California counties were at least 91% contained as of Monday morning, according to a Cal Fire incident update. The fires have destroyed 1,491 structures and killed five people.
9:42 a.m. Creek Fire grows to 78,790 acres: The fire, which started Friday in Sierra National Forest, has grown to 78,790 acres and remains 0% contained. The blaze is burning in Fresno County in the Big Creek drainage between Shaver Lake, Big Creek and Huntington Lake. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the communities of Big Creek, Huntington Lake, Shaver Lake and Cascadel Woods.
8:06 a.m. Remaining people rescued from Mammoth Pool Reservoir amid Creek Fire. About 20 people who were still stranded at the Mammoth Pool Reservoir had been evacuated as of Monday morning, according to the Madera County Sheriff. Although intense smoke from the surrounding Creek Fire had blocked rescue crews earlier Sunday, a ground crew was able to reach the remaining people Sunday night, the Sheriff’s Office said. The Creek Fire is 0% contained. More than 200 people trapped in the Mammoth Pool area were airlifted out Saturday night.
7:33 a.m. Wind advisory issued for North Bay mountains. The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the mountains outside of Santa Rosa, Calistoga and San Rafael from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday. Meteorologists are predicting winds of 15 to 30 mph with wind gusts of 45 to 65 mph. The winds may be high enough to down tree limbs and power lines, and isolated power outages are possible, according to the National Weather Service.
Updates from Sunday, Sept. 6
9:47 p.m. PG&E says which cities should expect fire-prevention shut-offs: The outages, from Monday night into Wednesday, may affect about 17,000 people in Napa County — in Calistoga, St. Helena and unincorporated areas — and 600 people in Sonoma County —in Cloverdale, Rohnert Park and unincorporated areas. Read PG&E’s full list here.
9:39 p.m. Newsom declares emergency over Creek, Southern California fires: Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation for Fresno, Madera and Mariposa counties due to the Creek Fire; as well as San Bernardino and San Diego Counties due to fires there. The declaration makes it easier to efficiently allocate resources.
9:25 p.m. Up to 20 people still trapped at Mammoth Pool, report says: Despite the daring evacuation of over 200 people by helicopter on Saturday night, up to 20 people, and 15 dogs, remain trapped in the Mammoth Pool area, the Fresno Bee reports. Conditions were too difficult for another air rescue today.
8:45 p.m. Fire in Southern California caused by device at gender reveal party: Cal Fire officials determined that the El Dorado Fire burning in San Bernardino County was caused by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used during a gender reveal party — a gathering in which parents-to-be unveil the sex of their baby in splashy ways. The fire began Saturday, and burned 7,050 acres by Sunday. The blaze is 5% contained. Those who start fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially and criminally responsible, CalFire said.
8:41 p.m. Creek Fire grows to 73,278 acres: The fast-growing fire, which started Friday, remains 0% contained.
8:40 p.m. More evacuation warnings in Fresno County: Click here for details.
8:25 p.m. No rolling outages tonight: The California grid operator said, for the second day in a row, that no outages were needed despite the strain on the power grid.
7:39 p.m. PG&E fire-prevention shutoffs could affect over 300,000 people: PG&E could shut off power to parts of 18 counties — including Napa and Sonoma — Monday night to Wednesday, amid red flag warnings. The outages may affect 103,000 customers — meaning roughly 309,000 people — across the utility’s service territory. That would be much smaller than some outages last year.
7:24 Red Flag warning includes area where Creek Fire is burning: The National Weather Services has issued a Red Flag warning for the Sierra Nevada, adjacent foothills, the Lake Isabella and Fort Tejon areas, and the Tehachapi Mountains. The new warning — which will be in effect until 11 p.m. Monday — includes the area of the Creek Fire, which is already highly dangerous. The fire has burned 45,500 acres in Fresno County since it began Friday and is 0% contained.
7:16 p.m. LNU fires reach 91% containment: The fires, in the North Bay, have consumed 375,209 acres.
7:16 p.m. SCU fires reach 92% containment: The fires, in Alameda, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, have burned 396,624 acres.
7:02 p.m. CZU fires reach 72% containment: Firefighters reached 72% containment on the CZU Lightning Complex Sunday evening. The progress comes as firefighters brace for high temperatures and low humidity this week. The fires, which have burned 86,509 acres across San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, has destroyed 925 residences and caused one fatality, according to Cal Fire.
6:31 p.m. Burn bans in San Mateo, Santa Cruz counties: Cal Fire has suspended indefinitely all burn permits and open fires for San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. Only campfires within managed and organized campgrounds are allowed. The order goes into effect just after midnight tonight. In certain circumstances Cal Fire may still issue a special permit but only if the site has been inspected beforehand by a Cal Fire official. Information is available at www.readyforwildfire.com
6:13 p.m. Air quality deteriorates: Air quality suddenly deteriorated Sunday afternoon for most of the Bay Area. By 1 p.m. San Francisco, Berkeley and portions of Oakland all had received the “unhealthy” marker denoting levels of fine particles — a component of smoke — according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Most other regions scored the lower level of “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” The worse ranking was in Concord, which registered “unhealthy” starting at 10 a.m. and continuing through the day.
6:07 p.m. Blackouts expected imminently: The California power grid has declared an emergency, the precursor to rolling blackouts. Read more here.
5:53 p.m. More evacuation warnings, orders in Madera County: Click here for the order for Central Camp; click here for the warning for the warning for Sierra Sky Ranch (Road 632) and nearby areas; click here for the warning for North Fork and nearby areas.
4:45 p.m. ABC camera crew escapes: Trapped at the Shaver Lake Marina, the ABC30 crew from Fresno was able to ride out safely with Cal Fire, correspondent Alyssa Flores tweeted.
4:40 p.m. Harrowing tales of survival from Mammoth Pool: “It felt like we were sitting in an oven,” one Creek Fire survivor, airlifted to safety, told The Chronicle. ‘We thought we were going to die,” says another. Read the story here.
4:08 p.m. How to look up your rolling outage time: Outages are expected due to the heat wave straining the grid. Here is a PG&E site to look up your outage time.
3:36 p.m. ABC crew trapped: An ABC30 correspondent with the Fresno station tweeted: “Shaver Lake Marina surrounded in flames. Our @ABC30 crew has been told we cannot exit the marina parking lot,” since the fire has made roads out impassible. She said in an accompanying video clip that paramedics are stuck with the group and firefighters believe the flames will go in a different direction.
3:29 p.m. Blackouts Sunday could hit 9 million people, report says: Bloomberg News reported that rolling blackouts could hit up to 9 million Californians, as the state power grid struggles to keep up with air conditioners and other sources of demand amid the brutal heatwave.
2:04 p.m. Rolling blackouts likely unless Californians save energy: Amid record-breaking heat, California grid operators said Sunday would be the “most challenging” day of the heatwave. Without consumer conservation, rotating #poweroutages are likely,” the grid operator tweeted.
1:50 p.m. Possible power outage in Mendocino County tonight: With the heat wave straining the power grid, the Mendocino County sheriff warned on Twitter: “Portions of the unincorporated areas of Mendocino County MAY experience a temporary power outage between 7pm and 9pm, today, 9/6/2020.”
1:32 p.m. Wawona, other areas in southern part of Yosemite urged to prepare: The National Park Service tweeted: “Due to the #CreekFire, a fire advisory is in effect south of Chinquapin in Yosemite National Park (this includes Wawona). An advisory message is a notice of danger in the future; it is NOT an evacuation order, but you should get set in case an order is given.” The Mariposa Grove, featuring giant sequoia trees, is closing at 7 p.m., the park service said.
1:11 p.m. San Francisco hits 98 degrees downtown: The National Weather Service said that downtown San Francisco’s 98 degree reading “shatters the old record of 92 set in 1904” for Sept. 6, though the city is not likely to hit the all-time high of 106 degrees set in 2017.
12:54 p.m. Californians sizzling in heat wave asked to go easy on power grid: With much of the state sizzling in triple-digit temperatures Sunday, California issued a heat advisory that called for extreme energy conservation measures to protect against an overload on the state’s power grid. Residents and businesses were asked to cool properties and then shut off cooling units between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that, even with conservation, rolling blackouts could start as early as Sunday afternoon. Read more here.
11:34 a.m. Red Cross aiding Creek Fire fight: Red Cross volunteers are on site at the Creek Fire that has quickly scorched more than 45,000 acres near Fresno and sent at least 20 people to hospitals. The Red Cross has set up a hotline for shelter information at 571-595-7401. You can text your ZIP code to 888-777 to receive text alerts.
11:29 a.m. Creek Fire forces evacuations near Bass Lake: The Madera County Sheriff’s Office is advising residents in the Bass Lake and North Fork areas to evacuate ahead of a warning. Deputies went door to door Saturday night in Beasore Meadows to alert residents to evacuate. Other areas evacuated: Cascadel Woods, Kinsman Flat Subdivision, Mammoth Pool, Whiskey Falls, Clover Meadow, Arnold Meadows, Minarets and all campgrounds off Minarets Road and off Beasore Road north of Grizzley Road.
11:23 a.m. Some said no to being rescued from Creek Fire: Two people refused to be evacuated when more than 200 people trapped by the Creek Fire near Fresno were rescued Saturday night, according to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.
10:58 a.m. CZU fire 68% contained: The CZU Lightning Complex Fire, burning 86,509 acres in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, reached 68% containment as of Sunday morning, Cal Fire said. Weather officials anticipate dry heat and strong wind gusts in the Santa Cruz Mountains, with the strongest gusts expected Tuesday.
9:45 a.m. Evacuation orders lifted for LNU Complex Fire: Fire officials on Sunday lifted all evacuation orders for the LNU Lightning Complex fire, including the counties of Colusa, Lake, Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo. The 375,209-acre fire reached 89% containment Sunday morning, according to Cal Fire.
9:33 a.m. Creek Fire grows to 45,500 acres: The wildfire, which started Friday in Sierra National Forest north of Fresno, has grown swiftly to 45,500 acres, Cal Fire said.
9:32 a.m. Containment grows for SCU Complex Fire: The SCU Lightning Complex, which is blazing in seven Northern California counties, has burned 396,624 acres and was 88% contained as of Sunday morning, according to Cal Fire. Dry, hot weather will continue across the region, Cal Fire said.
8:47 a.m. More than 200 rescued from Creek Fire: All 217 people trapped in the Mammoth Pool areas near Fresno by the Creek Fire have been rescued, according to Capt. Jason Sanchez, a public affairs officer for the California National Guard. “As far as I know, we got everybody because the last two helicopters were not full,” Sanchez said. The wildfire in the Sierra National Forest, about 35 miles northeast of Fresno, remains 0% contained, Cal Fire said.
7:42 a.m. Smoke from Creek Fire arrives over Bay Area: The massive, fast-spreading Creek Fire is joining other fires and sending smoke over the Bay Area, according to the National Weather Service’s Bay Area arm, which wrote: “Air quality overnight has decreased due to smoke drifting northward from the Dolan Fire near Big Sur and the massive smoke plume from the Creek Fire in the Sierra.”
7:37 a.m. Air quality moderate in Bay Area: As what is expected to be an extraordinarily hot day dawned, air quality across much of the Bay Area was at moderate levels. A Spare the Air alert remains in effect.
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