Lightning strikes in Northern California spark 34 new wildfires

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Thunderstorms continue to challenge firefighting efforts in Northern California, where hundreds of lighting strikes sparked 34 new blazes in just one 24-hour period over the weekend, officials reported.

The fires were small and extinguished quickly, burning only 11 acres in all, said Denis Mathisen, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Still, the number of lightning strikes over the weekend -- more than 800 -- is an indication of the continual threat looming over Northern California this summer.

“Knock on wood, we didn’t get any large ones last week,” Mathisen said. “We’ve been staffing a lot of lookouts to check.”


Since the end of July, more than a dozen wildfires -- many triggered by lightning -- have scorched more than 100,000 acres in Northern California up to the Oregon border, injuring firefighters and straining U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire resources.

Last week, Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency as fires continued to ignite and the state’s worst drought on record tightened its grip.

Among the fastest growing fires was the Lodge fire, a complex of lighting-triggered blazes burning in Mendocino County.

The Lodge fire was just 35% contained after burning roughly 9,500 acres, Cal Fire reported Monday. The fire, which broke through firefighters’ eastern flank, has been burning through bone-dry timber in inaccessible, rugged hillsides where flames can make huge runs against firefighters.

Smoke has also been settling in the Ukiah Valley, prompting air-quality warnings.

The blaze nearly doubled in size over the weekend, and has injured 11 firefighters, according to Cal Fire.

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