California

Crews searching for wildfires after thousands of lightning strikes hit Northern California

Watch dramatic video of lightning strike blowing off top of tree in Lassen

A Lassen Volcanic National Park worker took dramatic video of a lightning strike that blew apart the top of a red fir tree May 29, 2019. Numerous thunderstorms hitting the Lassen National Forest have prompted park officials to spread safety tips.
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A Lassen Volcanic National Park worker took dramatic video of a lightning strike that blew apart the top of a red fir tree May 29, 2019. Numerous thunderstorms hitting the Lassen National Forest have prompted park officials to spread safety tips.

Fire officials will continue aerial reconnaissance flights over far Northern California to look for fires that may be smoldering following a massive lightning storm Friday night and early Saturday morning.

“There’s always a concern that there’s some sleepers out there,” said Cheryl Buliavac, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Redding headquarters.

Despite the thousands of lightning strikes, the good news is heavy rains — a rarity for the region in August — appeared to douse most of the fires, she said.

Cal Fire had a busy weekend after the storm.

Buliavac said firefighters in Cal Fire’s Shasta Trinity Unit put out 14 small fires sparked by the lightning.

The smallest was a single tree; the largest was just over 12 acres. One of the strikes ignited a detached garage, she said.

But it’s remarkable how few fires ignited, given the massive amount of lighting strikes that touched down.

A map shared by the National Weather Service showed thousands of them in a line from the Pacific Ocean to Nevada, from Ukiah to Modoc County.

The Redding area — still on edge after last summer’s devastating Carr Fire — was particularly hard hit by the lightning storm.

The Carr Fire, which ignited July 23, 2018, burned more than 1,000 homes. Eight people died, including two children and three firefighters.

The Carr Fire was caused by a vehicle with a flat tire at the intersection of Highway 299 and Carr Powerhouse Road west of Redding.

After a cooler than normal weekend, a heatwave is expected to hit the north state this week, with temperatures in Redding expected to top out at 104 by Wednesday.

Buliavac said the concern is that as the heat dries out the vegetation, it could cause any fires smoldering from the lighting to flare back up.

Watch a NOAA video about being safe when thunderstorms and lightning approach.

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Ryan Sabalow covers environment, general news and enterprise and investigative stories for McClatchy’s Western newspapers. Before joining The Bee in 2015, he was a reporter at The Auburn Journal, The Redding Record Searchlight and The Indianapolis Star.
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