Bay Area residents wake up to ‘orange’ sky
BAY Area residents woke up to sunset-like conditions on Wednesday, September 9 as smoke clouds and a thick marine layer combined to prevent the sun’s rays from fighting through the dense atmospheric blanket.
The orange-colored sky surprised many Northern California residents, and could be observed in cities as far east as Lathrop and as far north as Eureka.
A light dusting of ash covered vehicles parked along streets and uncovered parking lots.
The eerie scene could be described as one straight from a Hollywood disaster or post-apocalyptic/fantasy movie, similar to scenes in “Knowing,” “Deep Impact” and “Pitch Black.” The hue also resembled the color of the planet Mars in the movie “The Martian” starring Matt Damon.
Even San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa was surprised at what he saw on Wednesday morning.
“When you wake up and don’t know whether its morning or night, that can be just a little shocking,” Canepa said in a press statement on Wednesday. “I have to ask myself, ‘Are we literally going through a zombie apocalypse?’ because that’s what it feels like right now.
The Bay Area Quality Management District (BAAQMD) issued a Spare the Air alert for today and tomorrow (September 10) so no one should be driving cars or burning wood or doing anything to put themselves or their neighbors at risk. Stay home and stay safe.”
Air quality index readings from different sources over the Bay Area indicated “moderate” to “unhealthy” air levels, which meant that residents are advised not to stay outside too long, especially for those with breathing problems or sensitivity to particulates in the air.
The smoke clouds, according to reports, seem to be coming from fires in the regions to the north of San Francisco, including the August Complex Fires in Mendocino National Forest.
As of Tuesday, September 8, multiple fires in the Northern California region had burned more than 1.78 million acres, according to a report from the Sacramento Bee. In all, more than 2.5 million acres have burned this year due to wildfires across California.
With the worst of the fire season yet to come, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) is bracing for more wildfires as September and October tend to have more high wind periods and vegetation has also become more dried out.
According to the same report, Cal Fire said upwards of 14,000 firefighters are battling 28 lightning complexes and major fires across the state as of Wednesday. Containment continues to increase for most of the major fires, although Northern California and Santa Ana winds were said to be stoking numerous fires.
“While firefighters are gaining ground on many of the lightning-caused fires in Northern California, firefighters are aggressively battling wildfires up and down the state,” Cal Fire spokesperson Daniel Berlant, while adding that currently extreme heat and high winds are behind the fires’ fierce spread.
Most of California remained under a red flag warning until Wednesday.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which began preemptive power shutoffs when fire conditions are exceptionally dangerous starting in 2019, cut off power to about 172,000 customers in 22 counties to prevent more fires on Tuesday but began the process of restoring power to those customers on Wednesday. The utility company has said that it will try to make outages this year “smaller in size, short in length and smarter for customers.”
Here are updates on some of the major fires still burning in the Northern California region:
• LNU Lightning Complex fire – 91% containment as of Tuesday. Sparked by lightning on August 17, it covers the Hennessey and other smaller fires burning in Napa County on the eastern zone, and the Walbridge Fire west of Healdsburg in the western zone. Total area burned: 375,209 acres.
• SCU Lightning Complex – 94% containment as of Monday, September 7. This is a series of fires in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Santa Clara and Stanislaus counties that was sparked by lightning on August 17. Total area burned: 396,624 acres.
• August Complex – 24% containment as of Wednesday. This fire is currently burning in the Mendocino National Forest and is now the second-largest wildfire by acreage in the state’s history. This fire was initially 37 different fires, but many have merged or been contained. It has burned areas in Glenn, Mendocino, Lake, Tehama and Trinity counties. Total area burned: 421,899 acres.
• CZU Lightning Complex – 81% containment as of Tuesday. This fire was sparked by lightning in the counties of Santa Cruz and San Mateo. Total area burned: 86,509 acres.
• Butte/Tehama/Glenn Lightning Complex – 58% containment as of Tuesday. This series of fires which started on August 19 have two zones: the western zone which covers Tehama/Glenn and the eastern zone, which covers Butte. Total area burned: 69,735 acres.
• Red Salmon Complex – 17% containment as of Wednesday. This fire, which started on August 18 is within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Humboldt County. Total area burned: 66,108b acres.
• Oak Fire – 10% containment as of Tuesday. This fire in Mendocino County, which started on Monday, is burning 6 miles north of Willits, and erupted quickly which forced evacuations. Total area burned: 863 acres.
• North Complex and Bear Fire – 38% containment as of Wednesday. The Bear Fire forced mandatory evacuations around Lake Oroville, including communities in Bangor, Berry Creek, Brush Creek, Clipper Mills, Copley Acres, Feather Falls, Forbestown, and Kelly Ridge. The City of Oroville has been placed under an evacuation warning. Total area burned: 150,140 acres.
• Creek Fire – 0% containment as of Wednesday. This fire, which started on Friday, September 4, is burning in Fresno and Madera counties. The Creek Fire has damaged a ski area in China Peak and burned property at Dowville tract, and the area between Billy Creek and Camp Silver Fir. This was also the area where Navy and Army National Guard helicopters rescued dozens of people trapped overnight by the aggressive fires. Total area burned: 163,138 acres.
Other fires in the region include the Fork Fire, Sheep Fire, Woodward Fire, Slater Fire and Slink Fire. Containment ranges from 0% to 95% for these fires.