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California Hasn't Seen Fires Like This in 'Many, Many Years'

Helicopter pilot dies while fighting them
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2020 12:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – A helicopter pilot died Wednesday fighting one of hundreds of wildfires burning in California. Authorities say the Bell UH-1 helicopter crashed for unknown reasons while making water drops in a remote area near Coalinga, Fresno County, the Fresno Bee reports. The crash ignited yet another brush fire. Fast-moving fires have forced thousands of people in northern California to flee their homes, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency, the BBC reports. "We are experiencing fires the likes of which we haven't seen in many, many years," the governor said Wednesday. He said at least 23 fires burning in the state are now considered major blazes.

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Cal Fire spokesman Chief Jeremy Rahn said Wednesday that a "historic lightning siege" of more than 11,000 strikes, combined with a heat wave, has caused 367 fires in recent days, the New York Times reports. Cal Fire officials say the LNU Lightning Complex group of fires west of Sacramento is threatening around 25,000 structures and is currently 0% contained. The fires have forced evacuations in Vacaville, between Sacramento and San Francisco. Travis Air Force Base, around 10 miles south of the city, has ordered the evacuation of all "non-mission essential personnel." In the eastern San Francisco Bay area, the SCU Lightning Complex cluster of fires is threatening thousands of buildings and has injured at least five people, the AP reports. (Read more California wildfires stories.)

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