Lightning Sparks Dozens of Wildfires in California

Spurred by erratic winds, wildfires have burned more than 142 square miles so far, claiming the life of a firefighter.
3:12 | 08/02/15

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Transcript for Lightning Sparks Dozens of Wildfires in California
California's governor declaring a state of emergency. This fire right here, the rocky fire, burning 18,000 acres so far. Flames taller than the homes they threaten. Nearly 9,000 firefighters on the front lines. And now, one of them, a husband and a father, paying the ultimate price. He was killed in the line of duty. 24 fires burning in California alone. But tonight, there are fires burning in eight states across the country. Flames fueled by hot, dry conditions. The forecast in a moment, but first, ABC's kayna Whitworth leads us off from the hot zone. Reporter: Two dozen large fires now burning across California, sparked by lightning strikes igniting dry ground. Conditions so treacherous, they claimed the life of David Ruhl, a 38-year-old firefighter who vanished in the flames Thursday. He became trapped after the fire changed direction because of the erratic winds. Because of the drought-stricken vegetation, accompanied by the steep terrain and winds, we're seeing fire activity that's abnormal for this time of year. Reporter: Dry lightning is the cause of most of these fires. Since Thursday, more than 400 lightning strikes reported in three northern California counties sparking at least 60 small fires in the region. 91,000 acres have burned so far. That's over 142 square miles, or an area roughly the size of Denver. Those nearly 9,000 firefighters are now battling these flames. The biggest fire is the rocky fire near Sacramento. Only 5% contained, and has forced at least 650 people to evacuate. It's like being in another world. It's the smells, the embers. I mean, it's still burning here. Reporter: Governor jerry brown declared a state of emergency for California on Friday. That means the National Guard has been called in to help firefighting forces already stretched thin. As we look at the amount of fires started due to lightning, we have a long road ahead of us. Reporter: With no rain for relief in sight and very dry conditions in California, these fires are burning extra hot. Take a look at this ash that's left over, and it's even scorching rocks in its path. Cecilia, these are very dangerous conditions for firefighters. They sure are. Kayna, thank you. Rob's here now. Kayna mentioned that dry lightning sparking so many fires. What makes it so dangerous? Reporter: It's so frustrating, because you get the lightning that starts fires, but gusty winds and you don't get the beneficial rain that can help put out the fires. And here's the setup for that. The big blue dry H in the north. It limits that deep monsoon moisture to the south. Anything that streams up north, really, produces the thunderstorms and doesn't produce a whole lot of rain. We have red flag warnings remaining in place across the pacific northwest. Look at the heat. Just dries up any rain that wants to reach the ground. 95 in Portland. We've set all sorts of records for the month of July in both Oregon and Washington. That's carrying over for the first weekend of August. In the northern plains, Minnesota, the southern half of it, potentially some damaging winds with that and some lightning, certainly. Chicago in through parts of lower Michigan, tomorrow night, I think, is going to be the threat there. Heavy rain across north central Florida today. Tampa seeing over three inches just since this morning and look at that. The future radar shows that rainfall is going to hang over that part of the state right through tomorrow. Meanwhile, Miami could use more rain, they're not going to get a whole lot. They sure do need it.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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