August 21, 2020 | 9:27am | Updated August 21, 2020 | 6:05pm
Some of the dozens of wildfires sweeping across California more than doubled in size in just one day — killing at least five and leaving tens of thousands fleeing from their homes.
Four massive blazes containing dozens of separate fires had by Friday collectively scorched more than 1,200 square miles — roughly four times the size of the Big Apple.
“Everything is gone,” distraught resident Nick Pike told CapRadio after he and three neighbors lost their homes in Vacaville, a town about 55 miles northeast of San Francisco that had to be evacuated.
The fires were sparked in part by a record-breaking heatwave and an estimated 11,000 lightning strikes recorded over the last week, mostly in northern and central California, with some doubling in size over 24 hours Thursday, officials said.
They have killed at least five so far, officials told the Associated Press, including three civilians who died in Napa County and one in neighboring Solano County.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the listed fatalities included a Pacific Gas & Electric utility worker who was found dead in Vacaville on Wednesday while on duty helping clear electrical hazards for first responders.
Earlier the same day, the pilot of a firefighting helicopter was killed in a crash during a water-dropping mission in Fresno County.
At least two other people were missing and more than 30 civilians and firefighters have been injured, authorities said.
More than 10,000 firefighters were on the front lines, including thousands arriving from neighboring regions, with National Guard troops also staffing hand crews and flying helicopters. Some C-130 military aircraft also had been outfitted as air tankers.
“It’s still not enough,” Cal Fire Assistant Chief Billy See said. “We’re still drastically short for a fire of this size.”
Officials were also alarmed that untrained locals appeared to be trying to band together to create volunteer brigades and fight the fires themselves.
“The dangers out there to their own lives outweigh anything they can accomplish,” Cal Fire spokesman Dan Olson said.
“They’re putting their lives in jeopardy.”
The fires have destroyed at least 175 buildings, including homes, and threatened tens of thousands more.
People guide a herd of goats into a waiting trailer during the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in Boulder Creek, California, yesterday. Stephen Lam/Reuters
Local residents sit next to a vineyard as they watch the LNU Lightning Complex fire burning in nearby hills yesterday. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Embers blow from a burning tree stump during the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in Boulder Creek, California. Stephen Lam/Reuters
Dave Broome, who is among a group of friends who call themselves “Rescue One,” sprays water on a structure during the CZU Lightning Complex Fire. Stephen Lam/Reuters
A satellite image released by Maxar Technologies shows a large area covered in thick smoke from the LNU Lightning Complex Wildfire. Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Tech/AFP via Getty Images
A satellite image shows burned vegetation appearing in a rust/orange color while healthy vegetation appears in shades of blue amid active fires from the LNU Lightning Complex Wildfire. Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Tech/AFP via Getty Images
A forest burns as the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire advances yesterday in Bonny Doon, California. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
A home burns during the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in Boulder Creek, California. Stephen Lam/Reuters
Scorched homes and vehicles fill Spanish Flat Mobile Villa following the LNU Lightning Complex fires in unincorporated Napa County, California. Noah Berger/AP
Chris Reiter (left) walks with her husband, Chris Garcia, as he leads a horse to safety in Vacaville, California. Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group via AP
Cal Fire firefighter Anthony Quiroz carries a hose as he defends a home during the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in Boulder Creek, California. Stephen Lam/Reuters
A firefighter walks past a burning home as the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire causes damage to property yesterday in Bonny Doon, California. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
A man tries to break off a branch on a tree that is blocking his way while attempting to go home after a fire ravaged the area in Vacaville, California. Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group via AP
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As the fires continued to intensify, residents were warned to prepare their most important items for evacuation, including in Santa Cruz, a central coast city of 65,000.
“Prepare early so that you are ready to go at a moment’s notice,” Mayor Justin Cummings told residents.
With Post wires