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lightning strikes

More lightning strikes? ‘Red flag’ warning brings more worry as California wildfires rage amid scorching temperatures; 6 dead – USA TODAY

, USA TODAY
Published 10:42 a.m. ET Aug. 23, 2020 | Updated 6:08 a.m. ET Aug. 24, 2020

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The helicopter rescue team was able to pull both men out safely.

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Californians braced Sunday for a troubling shift in the weather that was expected to bring unpredictable winds, more sizzling temperatures and potential lightning strikes that could ignite new wildfires across an already ravaged state.  

Firefighters have been battling more than 600 blazes – sparked by a staggering 12,000 lightning strikes – for a week. About 1.2 million acres of land has been torched. Most of the damage was caused by three clusters of fire “complexes” ripping through 1,175 square miles of forest and rural areas in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The fires have burned about 1,000 homes and other structures, forced tens of thousands to flee, killed six people, blanketed communities with a pall of dangerous smoke and haze, and left residents on edge.  

“Tuesday night, when I went to bed, I had a beautiful home on a beautiful ranch,” said Hank Hanson, 81, of Vacaville. “By Wednesday night, I have nothing but a bunch of ashes.”

California wildfires become a target for looters: A firefighter is among the victims. His wallet was stolen, bank account ‘drained.’

The National Weather Service issued a “red flag” warning through Monday afternoon for the Bay Area and the central coast, meaning extreme fire conditions, including high temperatures, low humidity and wind gusts up to 65 mph, “may result in dangerous and unpredictable fire behavior.”

There was the potential for scattered “dry” thunderstorms over much of Northern California, the weather service said, and lightning could spark new blazes.

RED FLAG WARNING has been issued for the entire San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coast from 5 am Sunday to 5 pm MONDAY (updated) for Dry Lightning and Gusty Erratic Outflow Winds from Thunderstorms. #cawx#cafirepic.twitter.com/3qo57XlGMd

— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) August 22, 2020

Mark Brunton, a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), said the winds can blow a fire in any direction, increasing the peril. “There’s a lot of potential for things to really go crazy out there,” he said.

Cal Fire unit chief Shana Jones urged residents Sunday to take the red flag warnings seriously. “What this means, is that any lightning that comes through … it’s going to likely result in additional fires. We do have a plan in order to immediately attack those fires, but it’s going to take some work.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of being prepared to leave,” Jones said.

Two blazes ballooned into the second- and third-largest in the state’s history, according to Cal Fire. Among the casualties of the fires: ancient redwood trees at California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods, and the park’s headquarters and campgrounds. 

A sixth fatality was reported Sunday night in Santa Cruz County, where the local sheriff’s office confirmed the death of a 70-year-old man in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire.

Fire crews made small progress over the weekend, and some evacuation orders were lifted. But the ominous weather reports had officials warning residents new orders could be coming.

Fires rage: About 600 wildfires burn a million acres in California in a week 

“There’s not a feeling of pure optimism, but a feeling of resolve, a feeling of we have resources backing us up,” Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Saturday that the White House granted the state’s request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration – despite President Donald Trump publicly chiding California over the wildfires last week.

About 14,000 firefighters man the lines, according to Cal Fire, and crews have been working around the clock. Jones said reinforcements have been streaming in. “I’m pleased to report more resources have been arriving to help fight our fires,” Jones said. “The LNU Complex remains the No. 1 priority for immediate resources as they become available from other incidents that were in California and for other resources outside the state.”

Despite the assistance, “we are definitely far from getting these fires handled. We’re not out of the woods by far,” Jones said.

Lightning danger: This is how a lightning storm can start a wildfire

The Sonoma County sheriff’s office released dramatic video of a helicopter rescue Friday night of two firefighters trapped on a ridge line at Point Reyes National Seashore. They were pulled to safety as flames raced.

“Had it not been for that helicopter, those firefighters would certainly have perished,” Sheriff Mark Essick said.

Of the two biggest blazes, the SCU Lightning Complex Fire was 10% contained Sunday; the LNU Lightning Complex Fire was 17% contained.

Contributing: Joel Shannon and Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; Scott Linesburgh, The Stockton (Calif.) Record; Joe Szydlowski, The Californian (Salinas, Calif.); The Associated Press

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Huawei strikes

U.S. strikes at a Huawei prize: chip juggernaut HiSilicon – Reuters.com

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The latest U.S. government action against China’s Huawei takes direct aim at the company’s HiSilicon chip division — a business that in a few short years has become central to China’s ambitions in semiconductor technology but will now lose access to tools that are central to its success.

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. flag and a smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration taken January 29, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

That could make it the most damaging U.S. attack yet against a Chinese company that U.S. officials told reporters Wednesday functioned as a “tool of strategic influence” for the Chinese Communist Party. Huawei Technologies Co Ltd for its part denounced the U.S. allegations and called the new measures “arbitrary and pernicious.”

Established in 2004, HiSilicon develops chips mostly for Huawei, and for most of its existence has been an afterthought in a global chip business dominated by U.S., Korean and Japanese companies. Like most electronics firms, Huawei relied on others for the chips that powered its equipment.

But heavy investment in research and development helped drive rapid progress at HiSilicon, and in recent years the 7,000-employee unit has been central to Huawei’s rise as a dominant player in the global smartphone business and the emerging 5G telecom networking business.

HiSilicon’s Kirin smartphone processor is now considered to be on par with those created by Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) —a rare example of an advanced Chinese semiconductor product that competes globally.

HiSilicon is also central to Huawei’s leadership in 5G, stepping into the breach when the United States cut off access to some U.S. chips last year.

In March, Huawei revealed that 8% of the 50,000 5G base stations it sold in 2019 came with no U.S. technology, using HiSilicon chipsets instead.

But the U.S. export control rule, first reported by Reuters last week, aims to block HiSilicon’s access to two crucial tools: chip design software from U.S. firms including Cadence Design Systems Inc (CDNS.O) and Synopsys Inc (SNPS.O), and the manufacturing prowess of “foundries,” led by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (2330.TW), that build chips for many of the world’s top semiconductor firms.

With the new restrictions,HiSilicon “will be in a situation where they’re not able to manufacture chips at all, or if they do, then they’re not leading edge anymore,” says Stewart Randall, who tracks China’s chip industry at Shanghai-based consultancy Intralink.

Without its own processors, Huawei will lose its edge over domestic smartphone rivals, analysts said. International sales had already been gutted by a ban on the use of key Google software.

Industry sources say Huawei has stockpiled chips, and the new U.S. rule will not go into full force for 120 days. U.S. officials also note that licenses could be granted for some technologies. HiSilicon can also keep using design software it has already acquired.

HILSILICON IN TOUGH SPOT

Still, analysts agree HiSilicon is in a tough spot. Nearly all chip factories globally — including China’s leading foundry, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (0981.HK) — buy gear from the same equipment makers, led by U.S. firms Applied Materials Inc (AMAT.O), Lam Research Corp (LRCX.O) and KLA Corp (KLAC.O).

The new U.S. rule requires licenses for companies using U.S. machinery to build Huawei-designed chips and delivered to the Chinese firm. To be sure, the new rule will not catch items shipped to a third party, allowing HiSilicon’s fabricators like TSMC the ability to ship chips to HiSilicon’s device manufacturers who can send them directly to a customer.

While there are alternatives to American machines – Japan’s Tokyo Electron Ltd (8035.T), for example, makes gear that competes with Applied Materials – replacing U.S. technology is not as simple as swapping out a machine.

“You almost have to think about it like a heart transplant,” said VLSI Research Chief Executive Dan Hutcheson, noting that chip production lines are finely calibrated systems where everything has to work well together.

Doug Fuller of the City University of Hong Kong said Huawei had a few options. It could slip around the rule by having suppliers ship directly to Huawei customers, though the U.S. officials said they would be vigilant about such workarounds.

FILE PHOTO: A Kunpeng 920 chip designed by Huawei’s Hisilicon subsidiary bearing the internal name of Hi1620 is on display during a launch event at the Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Sijia Jiang/File Photo

Huawei and the Chinese government could re-double efforts to build production capabilities that did not require U.S. tools, by investing in nascent Chinese competitors and buying from Japanese and Korean firms, even if that required quality sacrifices.

Or Huawei could turn away from HiSilicon and revert to buying from overseas suppliers — just not American ones. “There’s talk of Huawei just turning to Samsung processors,” for its smartphone, said Fuller.

(This story corrects name of university in paragraph 16)

Reporting by Josh Horwitz in Shanghai; Additional reporting by David Kirton in Shenzhen and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Lisa Shumaker

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