Fierce California winds fan fires, topple trees and trucks
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — Months-old embers from a deadly California fire were blown back to life Tuesday by powerful winds that raked the state and prompted safety blackouts to tens of thousands of people.
Firefighters chased wind-driven blazes up and down the state, trees and trucks were toppled, Yosemite National Park was forced to close and two coronavirus vaccination centers were shut down.
South of San Francisco, the state’s firefighting agency said it responded to 13 vegetation fires in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties in 12 hours, and isolated evacuations were ordered for a total of 120 homes near two of them.
The fires were small, with the largest no more than a couple dozen acres, and by nightfall were “creeping" rather than racing, according to state fire website descriptions. Two were within the area burned by last year's CZU Lightning Complex inferno.
“Fires within the CZU Lightning Complex burn area were regenerated by high winds,” the local unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted.
The complex started Aug. 16, 2020, during a barrage of lightning strikes. Separate fires merged, torching 1,500 buildings across 135 square miles (350 square kilometers) in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. One person died.
The Santa Cruz Mountains have a thick layer of “duff,” dead vegetation under heavy timber in which deep smoldering embers can be revived by the wind, said Cecile Juliette, a Cal Fire spokeswoman.
Cal Fire received nonstop reports of toppled trees and branches during the windstorm, Juliette said.
Small fires blazed throughout the state, though most were quickly stopped from spreading and posed no serious threat to homes. The largest, near Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley, burned about 1 square mile...