California Firefighters Take A Drive Through Hell

A CAL Fire firefighter took a nighttime drive through the CZU Lightning Complex Fire
Gif: CAL Fire/ Jason Torchinsky

It’s one of the most depressing times of year again, that season when we gather around the social media to watch as someone streams their drive through the unimaginable wildfires currently devastating what’s possibly the most beautiful (not to mention, most expensive) places in the country.

CAL FIRE posted this video Sunday of one of its firefighters making a nighttime drive through the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, currently blazing away in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties in California.


The weird tilt of the camera in this video may be a result of distracted driving, which you should never do, but it is hard to tell who is doing the shooting. Suffice to say, you really would not want to take this drive, and if you had to, you’d really want to be paying attention to the road.

As of Monday, the CZU Lightning Complex Fire is only 8 percent contained, according to CAL Fire. The CZU is actually the smallest of the three complex fires currently choking the Bay Area with smoke. As of this writing, the 347,630-acre LNU Lightning Complex Fire in the northern Bay Area and Central Valley, and the 343,965-acre SCU Lightning Complex Fire east of San Jose are among the state’s three largest wildfires in recorded history, CNN reports. The LNU fire is 22 percent contained while the SCU is only at 10 percent. Seven people are dead and nearly a quarter-million people have evacuated the affected areas.

Fighting the smaller 74,000-acre CZU fire is still tough, however, as people are unwilling to evacuate or taking advantage of the chaos to go on looting sprees. A fire commander was even robbed while working the fire, according to the Associated Press:

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said 100 officers were patrolling and anyone not authorized to be in an evacuation zone would be arrested.

“What we’re hearing from the community is that there’s a lot of looting going on,” Hart said.

He and county District Attorney Jeff Rosell expressed anger at what Rosell called the “absolutely soulless” criminals victimizing people already victimized by the fire. Among them was a fire commander who was robbed when he left his fire vehicle to help direct operations.

Someone entered the vehicle and stole personal items, including a wallet and “drained his bank account,” said Chief Mark Brunton, a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“I can’t imagine a bigger lowlife,” Hart said.

The fires started around August 15 after more than 12,000 lightning strikes lit the parched landscape ablaze. So far more than a million acres have burned, including Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California’s oldest state park. While firefighters got a short break in the weather over the weekend, the National Weather Service has issued a “red flag” warning for Monday afternoon. A red flag means conditions are just right for wildfires; a deadly mix of high temps and wind, low humidity, and possibly even more lightning strikes.

Managing Editor of Jalopnik.

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Time to get out the rake.

On a side note, I wonder what the danger of setting tires on fire are driving through such conditions.