Fires, blackouts, a heat wave, and a pandemic: California's horrible month

Edie Kansas left her home outside Vacaville, northeast of San Francisco, at 1 a.m. on Wednesday as a wall of fire traveling down hillsides threatened the cattle ranch that has been in her family since the 1860s. When wildfires struck in past years, inmate fire crews from nearby prisons quickly arrived to help protect homes. But this year, partly because of the coronavirus, the number of inmate crews has been slashed. Some prisoners are under quarantine and others were released early to mitigate the spread of the virus in prisons.

The fires, the power outages and the threat of the coronavirus have conspired to make 2020 the worst year Kansas can remember.

“This year,” Kansas said. “It’s just so horrible.”

On Wednesday, a helicopter pilot taking part in firefighting operations in Fresno County died in a crash while attempting to drop water, according to a Cal Fire spokesman.