California reports 50 new wildfires overnight and 1.3 million acres burned so far, Gov. Newsom says

Firefighters make a stand in the backyard of a home in front of the advancing CZU August Lightning Complex Fire Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Boulder Creek, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Marcio Jose Sanchez | AP Photo

Historic wildfires tearing through California have so far burned nearly 1.3 million acres, destroying hundreds of structures in their path and forcing thousands of people to evacuate in shelters and hotels across the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday. 

In the last 24 hours alone, the state has reported an additional 50 new fires, though they have been “effectively suppressed” as of Wednesday afternoon, Newsom said. The total destroyed acreage from the fires now nears the size of Delaware, according to Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency. 

At least seven people have died from the near 700 fires reported, although he warned that there will likely be more discovered once the fires are controlled. More than 1,690 structures have been destroyed so far, he said. 

“We’ve already crossed the threshold… this year in terms of acreage burned. That puts us not on pace to have a historic wildfire season but actually sets the pace for a historic wildfire season,” Newsom told reporters at a press conference. 

California has made some progress containing two of the most major blazes — the LNU Lightning Complex Fire in Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Solano, and Yolo Counties and the SCU Lightning Complex Fire in Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara and Stanislaus Counties. 

As of Wednesday, the state has contained 33% of the LNU fires and 25% of the SCU fires, which have impacted more than 700 acres combined, Newsom said. Another group of fires, the CZU Lightning Fire in San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, is now 19% contained, he said. 

“LNU and SCU represent the second and third largest fires in California’s history, at least in modern recorded history,” Newsom said. 

Almost 4,000 people have now been evacuated and reside in shelters across California. The Golden State governor said that a majority of them are in hotels so they can avoid congregating as California simultaneously tries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

The state has now deployed over 15,000 firefighters and more than 2,500 engines to combat the fires, receiving help from other states like Washington, Oregon, Kansas and more, Newsom said.

California’s fire season is growing longer and more destructive every year as climate change causes more frequent and severe heatwaves and larger wildfires across the Western U.S. 

— CNBC’s Emma Newburger contributed to this report. 

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