Home Emergency Management News EDM Friday Briefing: Massive California Wildfires Force the Evacuation of Tens of Thousands
EDM Friday Briefing: Massive California Wildfires Force the Evacuation of Tens of Thousands

EDM Friday Briefing: Massive California Wildfires Force the Evacuation of Tens of Thousands


Emergency and disaster management briefing for August 21, 2020: Tropical Storm Laura is now churning in the Atlantic as the NHC eyes TD 14 off Honduras; four fire-related deaths are being reported in conjunction with the LNU Lightning Complex Fire; HelloFresh meal kits are the latest products to be included in a recall over onions potentially contaminated with salmonella; five fires that were ignited by lighting have merged into one massive fire burning in two California counties; the Three Gorges Dam in China nears capacity as the dams' safety falls under scrutiny; a FEMA grant will offset the costs for Colorado in its fight to contain two major wildfires; at least 26 new fires have ignited across California over the last 4 days; Hasbro has issued a recall of two of its Super Soaker water guns due to unsafe lead levels; and Google has added wildfire tracking information to its maps.

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1) The National Hurricane Center (NHC) states that Tropical Storm Laura has now formed in the Atlantic Ocean, as it also eyes another tropical depression that has formed in the Caribbean Sea. Recent reconnaissance from a Hurricane Hunters plane found the center of Tropical Depression 14 (TD 14) just off the coast of Honduras. Tropical Storm Laura is nearing the Leeward Islands, and the NHC has issued Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings for multiple islands in the Caribbean, including the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten/St. Martin and St. Barthelemy.

2) The LNU Lightning Complex Fires are burning in five counties and threatening multiple communities, prompting widespread evacuations. Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for multiple locations in Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Solano counties, with CalFire reporting at least four fire-related deaths. According to CalFire, the dangerously swift-moving wildfires have scorched approximately 215,000 acres, destroyed 480 structures and are 0% contained.

3) In the ongoing outbreak of salmonella linked to potentially contaminated onions, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued another recall. The current recall is for HelloFresh meal kits that included onions that may be tainted with the salmonella bacteria. At least 900 people have been sickened with salmonella, including about 100 people who had to be hospitalized.

4) Lightning sparked multiple wildfires in California over a 24-hour period from Sunday into Monday, including the CZU August Lightning Complex, which includes a total of five fires burning in two counties that have now merged into one major wildfire. According to CalFire, approximately 48,000 people were evacuated from Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, multiple roads closures are in effect, and several schools have also been closed. Three firefighters have suffered minor injuries, and the fire has scorched at least 48,000 acres. In addition, 50 structures have been destroyed, and another 8,600 structures are threatened.

5) The world's largest hydro-electric dam, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China, is near capacity amid heavy floods that have led to an inflow of 19.8 million gallons of water per second. The dam holds an estimated 575 feet of water, and water levels have now reached approximately 545 feet. Chinese officials have stated that the dam's construction is safe enough to withstand the current flooding, which is expected to last about five days.

6) Colorado has received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that will help offset the costs of fighting the two most devastating wildfires currently burning in the state. The Pine Gulch Fire and the Grizzly Creek Fire have scorched a combined total of more than 151,500 acres, forced the extended closure of I-70 and impacted air quality around the state. According to InciWeb, firefighters are concerned that forecast precipitation and lightning on Friday could lead to debris flows into Glenwood Canyon as a result of the Grizzly Creek Fire. Information about current road closures due to wildfires and other issues across Colorado can be found at COtrip.org.

7) The Moc Fire ignited Thursday afternoon in Tuolumne County in California, swiftly spreading to over 1,700 acres, and now threatens hundreds of homes. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for residents, and roads were closed in locations near Moccasin as firefighters worked to contain the blaze. According to CalFire statistics, there have been a total of 5,762 wildfires as of August 20, with 26 of those fires — the majority of them being major fires — starting over the last five days. Those fires include the LNU, SCU, CZU and other large Lightning Complex Fires.

8) A recall for 52,900 Nerf Super Soaker water guns sold at Target was issued on August 19 by the Hasbro Company. The recall is due to a violation of the Federal Lead Content Ban for lead levels in the ink, and the company is urging consumers to stop using them immediately. Two models are included in the recall, the Super Soaker XP 20 (green and orange), and the Super Soaker XP 30 (orange and blue), and the items can be returned to Target for a refund.

9) In response to the many and massive wildfires burning in California and Colorado, Google added new features to its maps to assist users in tracking the fires. The new maps will outline wildfire boundaries, along with noting road closures, and will be updated hourly. The new information will be triggered by searches such as "California wildfires" or the use of specific wildfire names, such as the Grizzly Creek Fire. It will also warn users when they are approaching a wildfire.


Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.