Tens of thousands of Californians were forced to evacuate their homes on Thursday as a spate of fast-moving and potentially catastrophic wildfires broke out across the state, from Sonoma’s wine country to the hills around Los Angeles.
Weather officials were warning that dire conditions, spurred by high temperatures and strong winds, would continue throughout the night and into Friday as firefighters raced to halt the blazes.
Pacific Gas & Electric, the region’s utility provider, has turned off power to hundreds of thousands of residents for the second time this month in response to the dry, hot weather conditions. Time and again, state officials have found that the company’s poorly maintained power lines and transformers have been the source of deadly blazes, resulting in numerous investigations, lawsuits and demands from state leaders to better abide by regulations when it comes to maintaining utility equipment.
Meanwhile, utility provider Southern California Edison has turned off power to around 27,000 customers and is considering doing the same for nearly 400,000 others as hot, dry weather conditions persist.
Here are some of the most troubling fires around the state:
The Kincade fire near Geyserville has spread across more than 21,000 acres and was 5% contained as of Friday morning. The blaze, which started early Thursday morning, has so far destroyed at least 49 structures and forced fire officials to issue evacuation orders to about 2,000 people in the surrounding area.
“It’s only been two years since the fires that devastated our community, and for many, this will be a very stressful and anxious time,” Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said on Thursday, referring to a 2017 fire that was, at the time, the biggest ever to hit the state.
The cause of the current blaze remains unknown. However, PG&E told state regulators that a high-voltage transmission tower that had not yet been turned off in the planned power outage broke near the origin point of the fire about the time it started.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a state-of-emergency proclamation for Sonoma County late Thursday.
Just south of Sonoma’s blaze, the Muir fire in Marin County has burned 58 acres along the coast and was 50% contained as of Friday afternoon. Though this fire is relatively small and in a sparsely populated area, fire officials warned that stronger winds and drier conditions approaching this weekend could exacerbate the situation.
“I urge residents and visitors to use caution,” Marin County Fire Chief Jason Weber said.
Currently, about 150 personnel are battling the blaze.
Fire officials ordered mandatory evacuations after the Tick fire, a blaze in Santa Clarita, quickly charred some 4,300 acres by Friday morning. Authorities said at least 50,000 people have been ordered to evacuate in the region. The fire has burned multiple structures and is threatening neighborhoods in the city just north of Los Angeles, spurred by high temperatures and strong winds.
“We’re doing everything possible to reduce the spread,” Sean Rios, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, told the Los Angeles Times. “The wind is a major factor. All ground and aerial resources are being utilized to the best of their capabilities, but we’re going to be here for a while.”
Newsom issued a state-of-emergency proclamation regarding the Tick fire late Thursday.
A small fire broke out in the Sepulveda Basin of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, burning about two acres and sending smoke into nearby neighborhoods. Weather officials said the blaze was being spurred by strong winds reaching about 25 mph, but noted they were not as strong as those fanning the Tick fire.
The Sepulveda fire wasn’t immediately threatening homes, but the Los Angeles Fire Department urged residents to gather emergency supplies and monitor local news in case the blaze grew.
By Friday morning, the blaze was about 80% contained after burning 60 acres.
This story has been updated with Friday’s numbers concerning the fires.