Mother Nature dealt firefighters a break this week, holding back on lightning strikes and strong winds that promised to worsen conditions for crews battling the LNU Lightning Complex wildfires.
Instead, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported gaining some ground on those blazes, which combined spanned nearly 353,000 acres in size with 27 percent containment as of about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“I’m feeling very confident about where we’re moving,” Cal Fire Incident Commander Sean Kavanaugh said at a news briefing Monday at the Napa County Fairgrounds. One of the incidents, the 2,360-acre Meyers Fire north of Jenner, stood at 97 percent containment as of Tuesday morning.
“That’s what we’re calling a win,” Kavanaugh said.
In Yolo County, crews have secured blackline conditions — where no combustible fuels remain between the fire line and the main fire — north from where Cache Creek enters the Capay Valley to the city of Winters to the south, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Chris Waters said during an operational update. Mop-up patrols remain underway.
From Winters south to Vacaville, crews are performing “heavy mop-up” duty, particularly along Pleasants Valley Road, and “we’re trying to get that area secure so we can start to move people in during the repopulation phase,” Waters said.
Yolo County has no current evacuation orders.
Meanwhile, Cal Fire officials breathed a sigh of relief over the weather, with anticipated thunderstorms — and lightning, which caused the fires that so far have affected Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Lake and Yolo counties — failing to materialize earlier this week. A red-flag warning for dry, erratic winds also was canceled.
Fire officials also continued the process of lifting evacuation orders in some fire-threatened areas, allowing residents to return to their homes that were spared from the flames’ path.
Still, “it’s going to take time to put this fire out,” Shana Jones, chief of Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit, said Monday. “The size and complexity of this fire is one that we’ve not seen in times past.”
The fire’s casualties also continued to grow Monday, with a fatality on Monday in Solano County that now brings the death toll to five. Four others — fire personnel and civilians — have been injured.
Fire and law-enforcement officials also begin this week the somber process of assessing the property damage caused by the fires, which so far have destroyed 937 structures and damaged another 251.
“That’s where we start to feel a sense of loss as a community,” Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said at Monday’s news briefing. He encouraged residents to reach out to their friends and neighbors, or to access community resources by dialing 211.
The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Monday that wildfire survivors can register for federal financial assistance at disasterassistance.gov.
“Grants may help eligible survivors with financial assistance that includes rent, home repair, home replacement and other disaster-related needs such as childcare, medical and dental expenses,” the agencies noted in a news release.
Residents also can learn how to prepare themselves and their property for wildfires by visiting readyforwildfire.org. The website also contains resources for evacuees preparing to return to their homes.
“We are still in the middle of peak fire season. That means you need to have a plan. You need to be prepared,” Jones said.
Previously limited in personnel as wildfires raged throughout the state, Cal Fire received a staffing boost at the LNU incident this week, with 18 crews comprising 2,194 personnel now assigned to the fire lines, according to the Cal Fire incident website, which also includes information about evacuations and road closures.
The Davis Fire Department has its own strike team working the LNU incident, having deployed a new crew there early Monday morning following the return of a prior team that had been assigned to various wildfires throughout the state.
Additional reinforcement is expected this week from the California National Guard, which has dedicated 250 soldiers to work in hand crews at the LNU incident, Kavanaugh said Tuesday.