California Wildfires: Evacuations and Proactive Power Cuts
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By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, EDM Digest
More than 1,600 homes in Los Angeles were evacuated Friday as various wildfires erupted and spread throughout California’s San Fernando Valley.
Saddlebridge Brush Fire Spreads Quickly near Sylmar, North of LA
According to NBC News, one of the fires – the “Saddleridge Brush Fire” – started in Sylmar, just north of downtown Los Angeles on Thursday. Within hours, it quickly enveloped close to 5,000 acres in an area populated by close to 100,000 people. The Los Angeles Fire Department said early Friday that more than 400 firefighters were tackling the blaze.
“That fire, wind got behind it; it was a wind-driven fire,” said Al Poirier, the fire department’s chief deputy for emergency operations. “We have lost some homes.”
Fire Started in Calimesa by Abandoned Trash
Another fire swept through a mobile home park in Calimesa, 65 miles west of Los Angeles destroying 74 homes. According to officials, the fire was started when a load of trash ignited on a truck, and the vehicle’s driver abandoned the burning items on the side of a road.
The notorious Santa Ana winds – the cause of many devastating wildfires in California – combine with a deadly mix of low humidity and heady gusts. Dry summers and dry early falls create the perfect scenario for unrelenting blazes. The flames are deadly enough, but power lines and other electrical factors also add to fatalities.
PG&E Cuts Power to Millions to Decrease Fire Risk
Earlier in the week, PG&E cut power – as a preventative measure – to approximately two million people in an area encompassing the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Central Valley, the wine country and the San Francisco Bay Area.
“We have found multiple cases of damage or hazards caused by heavy winds, including fallen branches that came in contact with overhead lines,” stated Sumeet Singh, a vice president for the California’s PG&E utility. “If they were energized, they could’ve ignited.”
Similar deadly events occurred in previous years’ wildfires, so PG&E deemed the proactive blackouts as a matter of public safety by the utility. However, the decision got mixed reviews from residents – especially those who had no power and no approaching winds or fires.
There are reports of eggs thrown at PG&E employees and an unconfirmed report of a bullet penetrating one of their trucks. In fact, the backlash prompted PG&E to put barricades around its headquarters in San Francisco. However, many residents also applauded the utility company’s actions.
Stay tuned to EDM Digest for further updates on the California wildfires and check out our Twitter feed: @AMUdisasterCREW.