PG&E worker dies battling wildfire, as more mandatory evacuations are ordered

A worker with PG&E has died while helping clear the poles and lines for first responders battling the raging LNU Lightning Complex Fires, the utility said on Thursday. 

In a statement, PG&E said the "trouble man" died Wednesday afternoon in Gates Canyon in the Pleasants Valley hills on the outskirts of Vacaville. He was found in his car and efforts to resuscitate him were not successful. 

The statement did not say how he died or if he was consumed by smoke or fire. Still, he marks the first known Bay Area death connected in some way to the wildfires raging across the region. 

A pilot in central Calfornia died earlier in the week, when his helicopter crashed, while he was dropping water on a fire in western Fresno County.

Meanwhile, more evacuation orders were issued overnight for the major wildfires, including the eastside of Highway 29, near Twin Pines Casino and the Lake-Napa County Line for the LNU Lightning Complex Fire.

It has destroyed 105 structures, threatening 20,000 others and burned 124,100 acres or  194 square miles.

Cal Fire said Wednesday night that a collection of about 20 fires in the rugged terrain of the eastern Bay Area that have been dubbed the SCU Lightning Complex had scorched more than 100,000 acres in 18.5 hours. 

In rural eastern Alameda, Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties and western San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, the 20 blazes started at 9:25 a.m. Tuesday and were about 5 percent contained by Wednesday night, Cal Fire said.

Two people had been injured, Cal Fire said, but firefighters were actively defending structures from the fires on Wednesday and none appeared to have been damaged.

More than 1,030 personnel from 17 different agencies were cooperating to fight the collection of blazes Some of the area has not burned in recent memory and has lots of fuels conducive to extreme fire growth, Cal Fire said.

The agency said extreme fire behavior and accessibility issues have hampered firefighting efforts.

Overnight, crews planned to keep looking for safe access points and build direct and indirect fire line where possible.

New evacuation orders and warnings issued late Wednesday affected much of Santa Clara County east of San Jose city limits. In Alameda County, they cover the area southeast of Livermore, over Patterson Pass and east to the county line. And they include part of Stanislaus County.

Evacuation centers have been set up in at Creekside Middle School, at 535 Peregrine Dr. in Patterson, and at Milpitas Library, at 160 N Main St. in Milpitas.