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March 3, 2021

Lightning mostly spares South Bay; Red Flag Warning lifted

A few-hundred lightning bolts last night ignited some small fires throughout the region.

But the tropical storm cells that brought scattered rain from the Central Coast to Santa Cruz Mountains paled in comparison to last week’s frenzy of 11,000 strikes, which sparked hundreds of blazes that have since become some of largest fires in state history.

Officials said the influx in moisture at least helped slow some of the fiery onslaught while winds fanned away enough smoke for air support to target water drops.

Still, fires raging all around Santa Clara Valley continue to close in.

To the east of San Jose, the SCU Complex grew from a sparsely populated expanse in five counties to seven, prompting additional evacuations in Fremont, Sunol and Livermore to the north and below the Anderson Reservoir in Morgan Hill to the south.

Though mandatory evacuations stopped short of San Jose’s Evergreen neighborhood, city officials urged residents to pack their bags just in case.

Click here for Cal Fire’s map of evacuation zones.

By this morning, the SCU cluster of fires surpassed 347,196 acres, according to Cal Fire, with 10 percent containment. The SCU fires—spanning from San Jose city limits along Mt. Hamilton to within a few miles of the I-5 in the Central Valley—have destroyed a dozen buildings, damaged as many more and hurt two civilians and three firefighters.

Thankfully, overnight electrical storms mostly skipped the SCU Complex, officials said.

“We did have minimal lightning strikes,” Cal Fire Capt. James Amador said. “One started a half-acre fire in the Pacheco Peak area … but we anticipated more, so we got ready for a lot more than we actually saw.”

The 1,300-plus firefighters working the SCU blazes remain on high alert, however.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Amador, a veteran San Diego firefighter staffing Cal Fire’s SCU Complex media hotline.

With the skies clearing and storm cells dissipating, however, the National Weather Service lifted a red flag “fire watch” warning initially expected to last through tonight.

Meanwhile, air quality has improved in and around San Jose from “unhealthy” on Sunday to “moderate” this morning. According to the U.S. Air Quality Index, that means it’s safe to breathe for “most people.”

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