Lightning storm sparks fires across Northern California

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EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — It was a busy night for fire crews across Northern California.

Approximately 400 lightning strikes hit the region Thursday night, each having the potential of starting new fires.

“Pretty historic lightning storm last night,” said Cal Fire Chief Brian Estes.

Fortunately, California also saw something it hasn’t seen in a really long time: rain.

“There was precipitation that came down with the storm,” Estes said.

Estes said Northern California got the better end of the latest lightning storm. Only 20-30 new fires started locally, with only 9 of the fires requiring a response from local Cal Fire crews.

“Everything that has been new, initial attack-starts, we caught today,” Estes said.

Outside his jurisdiction, the largest of the new fires erupted within heavy brush in the steep terrain of Kanaka Valley in El Dorado County. That fire has burned more than 6 acres and is 90% contained.

Estes said his unit mostly received 911 calls to alert them of new fires, but they also used their lightning detection system.

“Intricate lightning detection system that is running out of our intel offices at the Northern Operation Center in Redding,” Estes said. “We will routinely fly recon flights at first-light with air attack platforms. It’s a combination of technology and then just flying and looking at the area for new starts.”

With the season close to changing, dry fuels continue to be an issue. Estes said the region needs a lot more moisture than it received last night for that to change.

“California, historically, we look at coming into the peak of our fire season September and October,” Estes said. “We have already seen a historic fire season across Northern California.”

Estes asks everyone to stay on their toes in case a fire forces new evacuations.

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