Raging California Wildfires Force Statewide Evacuations
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
More than 50,000 people were under evacuation orders Friday in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles. "Hot, dry Santa Ana winds howling at up to 50 mph (80 kph) drove the flames into neighborhoods. At least six homes were burned," the Associated Press reported.
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Strong, dry winds with gusts of up to 70 mph (113 kph) have affected much of the state, including the Sonoma area in Northern California, AP added.
All told, 18 million Californians are under a Red Flag Warning Friday as nine separate wildfires have burned more than 30,000 acres across the state, CNN said. But there have been no reports so far of any injuries or deaths.
Kincade Fire Forces Evacuation of 2,000 Wine Country Residents
About 2,000 residents were forced to flee the state’s famous wine country early Thursday morning as the fast-burning Kincade Fire, coupled with dangerously high winds, scorched more than 16,000 acres in Sonoma County, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The same area was the site of a series of deadly blazes two years ago that killed 44 people.
Fire officials battling the Kincade Fire said Friday morning that the blaze was five percent contained.
Humans were not the only residents affected by the blaze. As the fire spread, more than 100 emus, alpacas, ocelots, birds and other creatures were evacuated from the Isis Oasis Retreat Center and animal sanctuary, the Chronicle said.
PG&E Equipment May Have Ignited Wine Country Wildfire
California’s biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, admitted Friday that its electrical equipment may have ignited the wildfire burning in wine country "despite blackouts imposed across the region to prevent blazes," according to the Associated Press.
Referring to the Kincade Fire, the Chronicle said PG&E was investigating "whether its equipment sparked a disaster it had gone to great lengths to avoid." PG&E identified an outage on one of its towers shortly before the fire was reported at about 9:25 p.m. Wednesday.
The utility told state regulators Thursday that equipment on the transmission tower broke near the origin point of the fire, near Geyserville in northeastern Sonoma County. Geyserville has about 900 residents and is a popular stop for wine country tourists.
PG&E shut off power to parts of Sonoma and other Northern California counties on Wednesday afternoon. The goal was to prevent sparks from power lines damaged or downed by the strong winds starting new fires.
PG&E officials said they are “closely following a potentially strong, widespread dry offshore wind event” set to arrive Saturday. So remaining area residents were told to expect another potential power outage this weekend that could be much more widespread than the current blackouts.