The devastating wildfires in California have driven tens of thousands of more people to flee. Authorities ordered about 50,000 people to leave their homes in the northern district of Sonoma. The evacuation affected the villages of Windsor and Healdsburg.
In the wine-growing region about 120 kilometers north of San Francisco, the flames have spread to an area of more than 100 square kilometers – more than the area of Manhattan. According to the authorities, 49 buildings have been destroyed and another 23,500 are under threat. More than 2,000 helpers are battling the so-called “Kincaid” fire.
Due to the so-called “tick” fire in Southern California, 40,000 people had to leave their homes in the meantime. On Saturday, many of those affected were able to return. However, the fire continues to threaten around 10,000 buildings.
Nine homes were destroyed in the fire near Santa Clarita, about 30 miles north of Los Angeles. An area of more than 18 square kilometers was charred. More than 1,300 volunteers are on duty to fight the fire. Neither the “Kincaid” fire nor the “Tick” fire has so far been reported as a death or injury.
One million people without electricity
Wildfires also raged in the Mexican state of Baja California, several hundred miles to the south. The community of Ensenada on the Pacific coast was the hardest hit, Mexico’s Civil Protection Agency said. On Friday, three people were killed and four injured in fires in the region. Hundreds of soldiers were deployed to fight the fire.
In Northern California, utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) announced it would cut off power to nearly a million customers due to the high risk of wildfires. PG&E said on Saturday it had affected 940,000 customers – 90,000 more than initially planned.
Strong winds run the risk of power poles overturning or branches tearing down lines, triggering a fire. The wildfire in the Northern California town of Paradise, which killed 85 people in November last year, is believed to have been caused by faulty power lines.
Weather service warns of strong winds
California Governor Gavin Newsom accused private utility PG&E of being the result of “years of greed, years of mismanagement.” PG&E has failed to modernize and make its facilities safer, for example by investing in underground cables. Newsom announced that it would ask the company to pay for the economic damage and the costs.
The National Weather Service warned of dangerously strong winds with low humidity through Monday. This combination, which is potentially “historic” given the strength and duration of the winds, will lead to the rapid expansion of possible fires.