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A series of fast-moving fires in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere in Northern California — many caused by intense lightning storms — exploded overnight, burning homes and causing thousands to flee.

The newest fires stretched from the wine country to the Santa Cruz Mountains, moving with ferocious speed amid an intense heat wave that also has brought rolling blackouts. Smoke from the fires has caused terrible air quality across the region.

Many of the fires were believed to have been caused by lightning strikes. Northern and Central California began experiencing an unusually active sequence of largely dry lightning strikes Sunday morning, the most widespread and violent in recent memory in the Bay Area on one of the hottest nights in years, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Over the last 72 hours, there have been some 10,849 lightning strikes throughout California, state officials said.

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