Along with an unprecedented health crisis, California is currently experiencing wildfires of "historic" magnitude, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday.
Newsom said at a press conference that there were 625 active fires — 17 of which constitute major fires, including the LNU, CZU and SCU Lightning Complex fires in the greater Bay Area. A total of roughly 1.2 million acres have burned in the recent fires, according to Newsom.
At the time of the governor's noon conference, the SCU Lightning Complex, which is the third largest fire in state history, according to Newsom, was 10% contained, with 347,000 acres burning. The LNU Lightning Complex was at 22% containment and the CZU Lightning Complex was at 13% containment.
"This is a coastal fire," Newsom said of the CZU Lightning Complex, noting that wildfires in this area is a first and a "proof point" of a changing climate.
The total number of confirmed deaths from the fires is 7.
Over 1,200 structures were confirmed to be destroyed as a result of the fires, though the governor notes that the number is likely to be larger. The governor also said that 11 in-state testing labs, including Verily, have been directly impacted by the fires, though he did not address exactly how that might impact the state's current coronavirus testing capacity, which stands at 102,672 daily tests over a seven-day average.
Currently, there are about 14,000 firefighters actively working on the fires with over 2,400 engines deployed. The state is also receiving in-state and out-of-state mutual aid. The in-state mutual aid consists of 2,827 firefighters and 709 engines. So far, 91 engines from out-of-state were deployed and 375 more engines have been requested, Newsom said.
As thousands of residents are being told by local fire authorities to evacuate due to their proximity to the wildfires, Newsom said evacuees have been moved into hotels and congregate facilities that will require health screenings, as well as physical distancing and face mask protocols.
Newsom said there are 17 active congregate evacuation shelters throughout seven counties that are temporarily sheltering 731 people. When asked if he was worried about a potential COVID-19 outbreak, Newsom responded that he wasn't concerned because the health protocols were extensive, requiring screenings, such as a temperature check for admission, physical distancing and masks. The state also will be seeking more air purifiers for the facilities.
The governor noted, however, that most evacuees are being placed in non-congregate facilities such as hotels. To date, the state has sheltered 1,480 people through partnerships with 31 hotels offering 599 rooms, Newsom said.
To combat the devastating impacts of the fires, the state received a major disaster declaration from the White House this weekend, which provides additional federal support for counties impacted by the fires. This includes crisis counseling, housing and unemployment assistance and legal services, according to a Saturday news release from the governor's office.