Lightning strikes could further fuel wildfires

More evacuation orders issued in east Morgan Hill

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Evacuation orders remain in effect east of Ferguson Road in Gilroy.

Thunderstorms moving into northern California and the possibility of lightning strikes have Cal Fire officials concerned that it could further impact firefighting resources that are already stretched thin.

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning at 3:18pm Sunday for the Santa Clara Valley and surrounding regions. The warning is expected to remain in effect until 5pm Monday.

The weather service is predicting that lightning activity will pick up around 6pm Sunday.

“These erratic gusty outflow winds can lead to potentially dangerous and unpredictable fire behavior on existing wildfires while additional lightning strikes may result in new wildfire starts,” the weather service reported.

The SCU Lightning Complex, which began Aug. 18 across five different counties, stands at 339,968 acres burned with 10 percent containment as of 3:36pm Sunday. According to Cal Fire, five structures have been destroyed with another 20,000 threatened as more than 1,300 firefighters battle the blaze.

Cal Fire expanded evacuation orders at 3pm Sunday for southern portions of Santa Clara County around Morgan Hill impacted by the SCU Complex.

The mandatory orders and advisory warnings can be found on this map.

With more people ordered to flee, Santa Clara County has opened a third evacuation resource center at the Quinlan Community Center, 10185 N. Stelling Road in Cupertino.

The first evacuation hub opened several days ago at the Milpitas Library. A second sprang into action a day later at Ann Sobrato High in Morgan Hill.

Evacuation resource centers are staffed by the county and the American Red Cross. The facilities are not equipped as shelters but can help evacuees find temporary places to stay.

Evacuation orders and warnings for Gilroy continue to be located on the far east side, east of Ferguson Road and north of Highway 152.

Cal Fire personnel have been located outside Gilroy Walmart and Target to provide information to residents.

A Cal Fire Spike Camp has been set up at Christmas Hill Park to assist with the SCU firefighting efforts and the Ranch Side of Christmas Hill Park is now closed to the public until further notice.

The Gilroy Fire Department continues to assist in firefighting efforts with three engines and 11 firefighters deployed to the regional efforts while maintaining enhanced staffing within the city, according to city spokesperson Rachelle Bedell.

During a Sunday press conference, Cal Fire Unit Chief Jake Hess said the “exhausted” firefighters have recognized that this will be a “very long-term incident.” Residents can aid the efforts by evacuating when ordered, he stressed.

“Please look at those evacuation orders and listen to those,” he said. “We put those out there for a reason.”

For information, visit www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2020/8/18/scu-lightning-complex/.

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