(CBS SF) — The SCU Lightning Complex fires burning in several East Bay and Central Valley counties is now the second-largest fire in state history at 363,772 acres burned, moving ahead of the LNU Lightning Complex fires burning in the North Bay, according to Cal Fire.

The SCU Lightning Complex fires that started Aug. 16 and have spread in Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced and San Benito counties, were 15 percent contained as of Tuesday.

Most of the containment has been in the northeastern part of the fire in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, according to Cal Fire Operations Section Chief Tim Ernst.

The western ridge of the fire, bordering Fremont, Milpitas and San Jose, has not been contained but firefighters have bulldozed trees along the flank to create a dozer line and slow the spread of the fire.

“This entire west flank remains the number one priority in this instant because of the increased threat to public safety along with a lot of these populated communities and infrastructure risks as we move down the south,” Ernst said.

There are still three to four areas that have a lot of fire activity, Ernst said. Those areas include the northwestern part, east of Milpitas and Alum Rock, and in the southwestern part, near Henry W. Coe State Park and north of the San Luis Reservoir.

Firefighters are currently dropping retardant to slow the spread in the southwestern portion.

“Short range spotting continues to be an issue due to dense brush fields with no burn history,” Cal Fire said in its incident update. “Access into remote areas is lengthy and hampered by trees/branches continuing to fall blocking the roadways.”

So far, the fire has destroyed 18 structures and 13 minor structures and damaged six. The blaze has also injured three first responders and two civilians, according to CalFire. Nearly 20,000 structures remain threatened.

Tuesday afternoon, an evacuation order for Alameda County Zone 15B, south of Welch Creek to the fire perimeter and the Alameda/Santa Clara county line was downgraded to a warning. In addition, evacuations warnings were lifted for Alameda County Zones 15B, 15C, 15D, and 19. (Read More)

In San Joaquin County, an evacuation order for Zone 10B west of Interstate 580 was downgraded to a warning. Warnings for San Joaquin County Zones 11 and 13 were lifted. (Read More)

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, an evacuation warning for Santa Clara County Zone 16, an area just north of Morgan Hill and Anderson Lake, was lifted.


Flames were burning in remote areas that crews have had trouble reaching, including because of trees and branches blocking roadways. However, weather conditions will be more favorable to firefighters compared to last week, according to Cal Fire.

Crews on Tuesday were focusing their efforts on digging and shoring up containment lines to trap the flames in the more rural, rugged terrain to the east and contain any movement to the west and south.

“This entire west flank remains the number-one priority of this incident because of the increased threat of public safety along a lot of these populated communities and a lot of the infrastructure risks as we move further down to the south,” said Cal Fire Section Chief Tim Ernst.

On Tuesday, firefighters using super tankers swooping low over Mount Hamilton managed to save Lick Observatory as flames reached 50-100 feet away from the facility.

The fire was the third-largest in California history but has surpassed the LNU Lightning Complex fires also currently burning in the Bay Area. Those fires burning in Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Lake and Yolo counties are at 352,913 acres and 27 percent containment Tuesday morning.

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