Published: Mon, October 28, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Millions face power cuts as California fires spread

Millions face power cuts as California fires spread

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said the blaze has grown to more than 20 hectares, and evacuation orders have been issued for half a dozen roads in the area.

Two blazes are threatening Los Angeles and two other fires are reported to be moving across the centre of the state.

Some 1,325 firefighters backed by air tankers and helicopters battled the flames close to densely packed communities, with 10,000 structures at threat, officials said.

The more than 2,000 firefighters battling the Kincade Fire, which officials said was 10% contained and had destroyed almost 50 structures, faced a more immediate threat from weather than crews battling the Tick Fire. As many as 50,000 people were forced to evacuate. The shutdowns were created to prevent fierce winds from hurling branches into power lines or toppling them, sparking wildfires.

The PG&E outages that began Wednesday were the second time in two weeks that the utility shut off power to large swaths of Northern California over fire risk.

More than 500 firefighters were working to combat the blaze Thursday as sustained winds of 20 miles per hour and gusts of 40 miles per hour were recorded, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.

The fire burned at least 65 square kilometres (25 square miles), whipped up by the strong winds that had prompted Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to impose sweeping blackouts affecting a half-million people in Northern and Central California. North Bay, East Bay Hills and Santa Cruz Mountains were also under a red-flag warning for critical fire weather through Thursday afternoon due to strong winds and "very low humidity", the NWS said. The fire had burned 49 buildings, including 21 homes, and swept through almost 40 square miles (104 square kilometers) of the wine-growing region.

He wore a T-shirt that read, 'Rest in Paradise, ' an homage to the California town destroyed past year by another wildfire, the Camp Fire.

PG&E said on Twitter it had notified about 940,000 power customers in 36 counties of Northern California that their power may be shut off.

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The disclosure comes after a PG&E worker was targeted in an attempted attack earlier this week, officials said.

By evening, 39,000 people had been ordered to evacuate the area, Mark Essick, sheriff for Sonoma County, told reporters, following a call for 50,000 earlier in the day.

The weekend winds could be strongest recorded in the area since several fires devastated California's wine country in 2017.

Punishing Santa Ana winds that pushed fires into Los Angeles-area neighborhoods, burning six homes, are expected to last through Friday.

Several thousand people living in small communities in neighboring Lake County were warned to be ready to evacuate if an order is given. At least 22 people died, and more than 5,600 homes and buildings were destroyed.

The fire reached 23,700 acres - larger than the size of Manhattan - and was only 5 percent contained late Friday, the SFGate.com reported.

The Agua Dulce area, where the Tick Fire is burning, was part of the ongoing intentional power outages in the region, said Lois Bruce, a spokeswoman with Southern California Edison.

The company, a unit of bankrupt holding company PG&E Corp, acknowledged in an "electric safety incident" report to the California Public Utilities Commission that one of its power lines malfunctioned at about the time and location of the fire's origin on Wednesday night.

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