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LNU Lightning Complex fires burn 375,000 acres

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Three weeks after the massive LNU Lightning Complex fires began, the blaze is 91% contained, Cal Fire said on Tuesday morning.

The fires had burned 375,209 acres, killed five people, injured five people, destroyed 1,491 structures and damaged another 232.

As of Tuesday, crews continued to work to reinforce containment lines. Fire suppression repair teams remain active throughout the area. Assigned resources include 85 engines, 34 water tenders, four helicopters, 29 hand crews, 35 bulldozers, and 1,315 personnel. Additionally, numerous air tankers from throughout the state are flying fire suppression as conditions allow, according to Cal Fire.

The LNU Lightning Complex was made up of three fires, the Hennessey Fire, 317,900 acres; the Walbridge Fire, 54,940 acres; and the Meyers Fire, 2,360 acres. Containment of all three are between 91 and 100 percent.

Shortly after 9 a.m., Sunday, all evacuation orders and warnings connected to the Hennessey Fire had been lifted, according to Napa County’s Office of Emergency Services (OES).

The only remaining fire-related closure in Napa County is for Berryessa-Knoxville Road from Eastside Road to the Lake County border, which will remain off limits until further notice due to hazardous conditions along the roadway, said Napa County OES.

Swaths of rural northern and eastern Napa County, including the woodlands surrounding Lake Berryessa, were evacuated as the Hennessey Fire erupted on the morning of Aug. 17. It later spread into Colusa, Lake, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties.

The magnitude of the Hennessey Fire’s impact on Napa County was presented to the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 1.

Within the county the fire destroyed about 250 homes, damaged 12 homes and burned several hundred barns, garages and other outbuildings, county Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison said. Both aerial and on-ground surveys were used for the estimate.

“We’ve been contacted by several members of the public who are anxious to get started on rebuilding, like the phoenix out of the fire,” Morrison said.

The Hennessey Fire burned 164,948 acres in Napa County, said Cal Fire incident commander Sean Kavanaugh. The Napa Valley and its cities were spared damage.

The burn zone comprises 33% of the entire county, encircling Lake Berryessa, and spreading to four nearby counties. The lightning-spawned fire has burned in the rural east county, destroying homes in such small communities as Spanish Flat and Berryessa Highlands.

Napa County has experience in fire recovery from the October 2017 fires that destroyed about 650 homes. “Over the last four years, we’ve lost more than 900 homes in Napa County due to wildfires,” Morrison said.

Once again, dump trucks will be rumbling along rural roads carrying ash and debris from the ruins of homes. Home ruins are hazardous material sites, Morrison said. Chemicals are embedded in the ashes.

About 300 tons of hazardous materials and 60,000 tons of fire-related debris must be removed, he said. The county is making the case that the state and federal governments should help. Otherwise, homeowners will have to do the removal jobs on their properties themselves.

“I think that they deserve better,” Morrison said.

People were allowed to return to the small, rural community of Berryessa Estates Tuesday morning, he said.

According to the Associated Press, wildfires have burned a record 2 million acres in California this year. After a typically dry summer, California is parched heading into fall and what normally is the most dangerous time for wildfires. Two of the three largest fires in state history are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 14,000 firefighters are battling those fires and dozens of others around California.

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