California wildfires prompt thousands to evacuate

·2 min read

Update: California officials said Thursday night that at least five people have died. This article has been updated to reflect that change.

Some 10,000 firefighters continue battling dozens of wildfires raging in California that have left at least five people dead. More than 100 homes have been destroyed and 50,000 more remain threatened.

Flames have prompted authorities to issue ready-to-evacuate orders for hundreds of thousands of people. In the mountains above Santa Cruz, 20,000 were ordered to evacuate Wednesday night after "fire tornadoes" ravaged scores of homes. As of Thursday, some people were still missing.

"There are people that are unaccounted for, that we are looking to try to determine where they are," said Deputy Chris Clark of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office.

Much of greater San Francisco has the worst air quality in the world, making the horrific situation worse in the battle to beat back so many fires. Temperatures also made the firefight difficult being that more than half a dozen heat records were shattered on Wednesday, CBS Los Angeles reported. However, some areas of the Golden State started to experience cooler temperatures on Thursday.

From space, NASA shows most of California, Nevada and Southern Idaho covered with sickening smoke spreading eastward. Fire crews are stretched thin, and they are now reaching out to other states for help.

As flames approached one resident's neighborhood while everyone was evacuating, police had even more bad news. "Nobody's going to be on that hill, no fire department, no Cal Fire, you have to go. So, you know, we felt abandoned," said Zach Galgan.

So he and his sons hiked up the hill behind their home and started cutting a firebreak by themselves. Soon more family members came to help. They worked through the night, and the flames burned right up to their firebreak.

"All I can say is that we did this. We stopped this," said Galgan.

A family works to cut a fire line to save their home and other residences in a California neighborhood as several wildfires ravage the state. / Credit: Zach Galgan
A family works to cut a fire line to save their home and other residences in a California neighborhood as several wildfires ravage the state. / Credit: Zach Galgan

Businesses already struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic are now also dealing with smoke and ash from the fires, prompting many of them to cancel outdoor dining. Randy Musterer said he canceled outdoor dinner service at his restaurant after a poor lunch service Wednesday.

"It was just extremely smoky," said Musterer. "We had maybe two tables all lunchtime, you know, most people didn't even want to come out. And we figured we're not going to have any dinner dining tonight."

So far this year, there have been more than 5,700 wildfires reported in the state, according to Cal Fire.

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