Though the air is still heavy with the smoke of fires from all over Northern California, the burden got a little lighter this weekend as pledges of support came in from a variety of sources.
President Bush declared a state of emergency for California on Saturday, authorizing federal assistance to alleviate the effects of the fires. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security will now be able to use federal funds to assist local agencies in helping those affected by the fires.
California has already seen broad support from the military and other out-of-state agencies. Local fire personnel have benefited from six federal Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems from Wyoming, Colorado and North Carolina, according to the governor‘s office. Four helicopters have been sent in from Nevada, Arizona and Oregon, and an RC-26 aircraft has been sent in from Mississippi.
In the meantime, local officials are advising residents to continue to take precautions against unhealthy air by avoiding outdoor activities and staying inside. A bulletin from the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District instructs local residents to keep doors and windows closed as much as possible and to contact a doctor if they experience coughing or shortness of breath.
Officials also advised those with heart disease to be especially careful due to a known link between the presence of particulate matter and heart attacks.
According to Cal Fire, the state fire department, a total of 1,420 fires have burned 356,134 acres so far. More than 18,608 fire personnel are trying to get control of the fires.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement warning about additional lightning storms.
“We‘ve seen hundreds of blazes started recently as a result of these lightning strikes, and we are making sure the state has the emergency response resources in place to put out any new flames as quickly as possible,” he said.
The governor also warned about the risks associated with fireworks in the week leading up to Independence Day. He said fire-affected counties should take a good look at their resources and consider taking steps such as firework bans to protect against further fires.
The fire closest to Davis in Fairfield was fully contained by Wednesday. State Representative Lois Wolk (D-Davis) thanked local and state agencies for their quick response to the fire.
“I want to thank the governor for coming to Solano County and for drawing particular attention to this devastating wildfire,“ Wolk said at a press conference last week. “With the additional support from the governor and the Office of Emergency Services I have no doubt that the community is getting all the attention and resources needed.“
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning Sunday about dry lightning for the mountains of eastern Shasta County. Many of the fires that are still burning in California were caused by lightning storms last week.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.