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Firefighters monitor a backfire as they work the Walbridge fire in Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve protecting the heritage trees in Guerneville, Calif. on Aug. 25. Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in California Wednesday, as hundreds of fires raze over 1.4 million acres in a natural disaster that's seen over 100,000 people placed on evacuation orders.

The big picture: At least seven deaths have been reported and dozens of properties razed amid dismal air quality. The fires have brought another crisis to a state reporting the most coronavirus infections in the country.

Catch up quick: Firefighters have been facing record-breaking temperatures, dry conditions and more than 13,000 lightning strikes, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

  • Per Cal Fire, the LNU Lightning Complex has charred over 360,800 acres and forcing hundreds to evacuate. It's 33% contained as of Wednesday.
    • The blaze near Vacaville, known as the Hennessey Fire and part of the LNU Lightning Complex, has been one of the most destructive, burning down homes and claiming the life of a PG&E worker assisting first responders. This same blaze has damaged hundreds of structures.
  • The SCU Lightning Complex has razed almost 367,400 acres and was 30% contained.
  • The CZU August Lightning Complex resulted in the evacuation of more than 64,000 people, according to Cal Fire. In Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, roughly 48,000 residents were required to evacuate.
    • The wildfire has burned some 81,100 acres and was 21% contained as of Tuesday.
  • The River Fire in Monterey County was 58% contained as of Tuesday and prompted mandatory evacuations. More than 48,400 acres have been burned.

Of note: President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for California last Saturday.

More photos: Fires burn across California
A rooster walks by a burned vehicle during the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Vacaville, California on Aug. 24. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images
Firefighters work to protect homes in Boulder Creek, California, Aug. 22. Photo: Dylan Bouscher/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images
La Borgata Winery owner Gerry Iuliano beside a burned barrel amid the charred remains of his winery during the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Vacaville, Aug. 23. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images
Firefighters work to protect homes in Boulder Creek, Aug. 22. Photo: Dylan Bouscher/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images
Traffic on Highway 24 as motorists travel through a thick cloud of smoke in Walnut Creek, Aug. 22. Photo: Jose Carlos Fajardo/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images
Embers scatter across Highway 1 as the CZU Lightning Complex fire burns in Ano Nuevo State Park, Aug. 22. Photo: MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images
A Pacific Gas and Electric firefighter walks down a road as flames approach in Fairfield during the LNU Lightning Complex fire, Aug. 19. Photo: Josh Edelson/Getty Images
The remnants of a home near Pleasant Hills Ranch Way in Vacaville, Aug. 20. Photo: Anda Chu/MediaNews Group/East Bay Times via Getty Images
A cabin near Little Basin Road and Highway 236 goes up in flames in Boulder Creek. Photo: MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images
A home burns in Vacaville, Aug. 19. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images
A resident protecting his property as the LNU Lightning Complex of fires burn through Fairfield, Aug. 19. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Firefighters monitor flames as they approach a residence in the valley area of Vacaville, Aug. 19. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images
Firefighters attempt to stop a grass fire from jumping a road in Vacaville, Aug. 19. Photo by Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images
The site of the Hennessey Fire in Vacaville, Aug. 19. Photo: Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The Lake Fire in the Angeles National Forest, by Lake Hughes, 60 miles north of Los Angeles, Aug. 15. Photo: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images
Firefighters battle the Lake Fire near Lake Hughes, Aug. 15. The National Weather Service said Californians can expect excessive heat through Wednesday. Photo: Nick Ut/Getty Images
Firefighters work at night cutting trees and removing vegetation in order to make a firebreak as they battle the Lake Fire, Aug. 15. Photo: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images
A pyrocumulus cloud forms atop a smoke plume near the Ranch Fire as seen from Azusa, Aug. 15. The fire has razed some 2,500 acres and has yet to be contained, according to CalFire. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images
A scorched statue in front of a home razed by the fire on Aug. 13. It's one of several properties and vehicles destroyed along Pine Canyon Road west of Lake Hughes. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Editor's note: This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

Go deeper

Nov 15, 2020 - World

In photos: Egypt uncovers 100 ancient coffins buried 2,500 years ago

Newly rediscovered ancient sarcophagi are displayed in Saqqara, Egypt. Photo: Fadel Dawood/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Archaeologists in Egypt unveiled Saturday some 40 gilded statues and at least 100 ancient coffins dating back over 2,500 years — and some contain mummies.

The big picture: The find in a vast pharaonic necropolis at Saqqara, south of Cairo, follows 59 intact sarcophagi uncovered at the site in September and October. Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Anany told a briefing, "Saqqara has yet to reveal all of its contents," per Al Jazeera. "Excavations are still under way."

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.

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