Cal Fire: LNU megafire was fast-moving, response limited

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By Todd R. Hansen McNaughton Media More than 12,000 lightning strikes were recorded around the state – mostly in Northern California – from Aug. 15-19. Two thousand of those strikes occurred Aug. 16 and Aug. 17 in the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit of the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Those 2,000 strikes resulted in 90 fires within the unit. “Unfortunately, some of those fires got away from us and developed into large fires,” unit Chief Shanna Jones told the Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The resulting LNU Lightning Complex Fire burned 567.5 square miles (363,200 acres) in six counties, including Solano County, resulting in the most devastating fire in county history. It spread at an “unprecedented rate of speed,” Jones noted, burning 234,375 square miles (150,000 acres) in a 24-hour period. That included a 12-mile run over Mount Vaca into Solano County. The LNU Lightning Complex Fire is the fifth-largest fire in state history, resulting in six deaths and destroying 1,491 structures. Of the fires that were ignited during the heavy August lightning activity, five are among the 20 largest in state history. “Majority of fires were lightning-caused. Markley Fire was human-caused,” the board was told. The Solano County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a man in connection with the start of the Markley Fire. Victor Serriteno, 29, of Vacaville, has been charged with three counts of arson and two counts of murder, in addition to special circumstances for arson-murder and multiple murders. He has pleaded not guilty. The Solano County District Attorney’s Office asserts that Serriteno started the fire in an attempt to destroy evidence of another murder for which he has been charged. He has pleaded not guilty in that case as well. Having so many fires – and several that were very large – spread resources thin and left Solano County to fend for itself in the early hours of the blaze. Jones said in addition to the number of fires, there was also a shortage in fire personnel, caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that resources from other states that would have normally been available were engaged in their own home fires. Jones credited the local agencies in Solano County for their response. The presentation ended with suggestions about what area residents can do to protect themselves from future wildfires. That includes creating defensible space around their homes and structures, switch to fire-resistant roofing and other materials, use fire-resistant landscaping and vegetation management. The residents also were encouraged to get involved with fire safety councils. “People are starting to think about their neighbors,” said John Vasquez, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

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