California governor declares statewide emergency as Kincade Fire grows to 50,000 acres

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Sunday as wind-whipped...

Posted: Oct 28, 2019 3:30 AM
Updated: Oct 28, 2019 3:37 AM

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Sunday as wind-whipped wildfires in the north and south of the state gobbled up land, destroyed homes and forced almost 200,000 people to flee.

In Northern California's wine country outside San Francisco, the Kincade Fire has grown to about 50,000 acres and is 10% contained, Newsom said Sunday. That's up from 30,000 acres reported earlier in the day. The governor estimated 180,000 people evacuated because of the fire, which CalFire says destroyed 79 structures.

The Tick Fire, burning near Santa Clarita in the southern part of the state, destroyed at least 22 structures and threatened 10,000 more, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said Sunday.

Meanwhile, Californians outside the fire zones find themselves in the dark -- literally.

About 1 million Pacific Gas and Electric customers lost power -- 965,000 because of the Public Safety Power Shutoff, and an additional 100,000 for other reasons, said Mark Quinlan, PG&E incident commander.

Californians should not expect immediate relief. Strong winds will keep blowing into Monday and a second batch of Santa Ana winds may hit Southern California in the middle of the week, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.

Winds hit the 70-80 mph range on Sunday, the National Weather Service said. Newsom's proclamation mentioned a "historic wind event" and said "fire weather conditions are unprecedented due to the scale, scope, wind speed and dry fuel conditions."

"We are deploying every resource available, and are coordinating with numerous agencies as we continue to respond to these fires," Newsom said in a statement. "It is critical that people in evacuation zones heed the warnings from officials and first responders, and have the local and state resources they need as we fight these fires."

Kincade Fire spreading fast

The rapid growth of the Kincade Fire alarmed fire officials and residents like Christopher Bingham. He said his family prepared to evacuate, but he was still surprised to see a wall of fire approaching his house in Geyserville a few days ago.

"It was 5:30 a.m. when I looked out and saw flames within 400 yards of my house," he told CNN affiliate WPIX. "It was time to get out."

That fire now threatens 31,175 other homes and buildings, said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). Authorities have increased evacuation orders to cover 180,000 people in Sonoma County, the sheriff's office said.

"This is the largest evacuation that any of us at the Sheriff's Office can remember," the department tweeted. "Take care of each other."

The Kaiser Permanente Hospital and Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital evacuated patients in Santa Rosa, the Sonoma County seat devastated by fire two years ago. The historic Soda Rock Winery in Sonoma County went up in flames.

Newsom said 3,000 fire personnel are working on the Kincade Fire. Resources have been brought in from San Diego and southern California to help, he said.

Two vegetation fires broke out in the city of Vallejo in the San Francisco Bay area Sunday morning, temporarily shutting down traffic on the Interstate 80 at the Carquinez Bridge, according to the California Highway Patrol. The city's mayor, Bob Sampayan, said the fire was 80% contained after burning some 140 acres.

The California State University Maritime Academy (Cal Maritime) evacuated the waterfront campus due to the vegetation fires. Cal Maritime is the only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast.

In San Francisco proper, winds blew with such force that authorities advised motorists not to drive campers and trailers across the San Francisco Bridge.

In the East Bay city of Martinez, winds blew down a tree onto a farmer's market Sunday morning, injuring nine people, WPIX reported.

Tick Fire destroys 22 structures

Down in the Los Angeles area, "critical fire weather conditions are in place across Southern California today as winds ramp up across the region this evening," Brink said.

The Tick Fire, burning near Santa Clarita, had destroyed at least 22 structures and was threatening 10,000 more, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said Sunday.

Ferocious winds, with gusts up to 80 mph, mixed with dry vegetation and critically low humidity of less than 10% have spawned the extreme fire threat, Brink said.

Several areas are under red flag warnings, which are issued when a weather event could lead to "extreme fire behavior that will occur within 24 hours," Cal Fire said.

That brings the possibility for "very rapid fire spread and extreme fire behavior with any new ignitions Sunday night into Monday," the National Weather Service in Los Angeles said.

"A second, potentially stronger Santa Ana wind event is forecast to occur Wednesday into Thursday, with winds gusting to 70 mph," Brink said.

More than 1 million people in the dark

In an effort to avert any more wildfires, Pacific Gas & Electric has shut off power to 960,000 customers, PG&E said Sunday.

But the number of people without power is higher, since electric customers include houses and businesses.

Residents in parts of 38 counties in the Northern and Southern Sierra Foothills, the North Bay and Mendocino, the Bay Area, the Central Coast and the Central Valley are part of the rolling blackouts, the company said.

PG&E announced the current shutoff last week. The company has made preventive shutoffs all over northern and central California in recent weeks, but this one could be the largest.

"This (public safety power shutoff) action is based on forecasts of historic dry, hot and windy weather that poses a significant risk for damage and sparks on the electric system and rapid wildfire spread," PG&E said.

Paradise, the town devastated by last year's deadly Camp Fire, is among the areas scheduled to lose power.

Californians tired of losing electricity might have to get used to it.

Earlier this year, the company warned it could proactively cut power more often during risky weather conditions as a means of preventing wildfires caused by high winds downing live power equipment.

The preventive power outages may continue for a decade, PG&E's chief executive said earlier this month.

PG&E has came under widespread criticism and agreed to pay billions for its role in the 2018 Camp Fire, California's deadliest and most destructive blaze.

A Cal Fire investigation found the company responsible for the fire. PG&E acknowledged it's "probable" that its equipment started the fire.

Helping evacuees

More than 700 hosts in Northern California have opened up their homes and rental properties via Airbnb to evacuees leaving their homes due to the Kincade Fire, according to Airbnb.

Hosts in the region are opening their homes for free until November 7 to displaced residents and relief workers deployed to help.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 4185

Reported Deaths: 153
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah114259
Marion94925
Washington73417
Clackamas30611
Deschutes1240
Umatilla1163
Linn1159
Polk9812
Lane693
Yamhill697
Jackson650
Benton555
Clatsop450
Klamath440
Malheur320
Coos310
Jefferson300
Douglas270
Wasco231
Josephine231
Hood River160
Columbia160
Lincoln120
Morrow110
Curry70
Union60
Tillamook60
Crook60
Wallowa20
Lake20
Sherman10
Harney10
Grant10
Baker10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 109895

Reported Deaths: 4144
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles537462339
Riverside7486323
San Diego7385269
Orange6100146
San Bernardino5200204
Alameda328995
Santa Clara2731141
San Francisco253241
Kern214538
San Mateo210484
Tulare184484
Fresno171435
Santa Barbara164912
Imperial163427
Contra Costa142637
Sacramento140056
Ventura107833
San Joaquin85834
Kings7353
Stanislaus69928
Sonoma5484
Solano51722
Monterey50910
Marin45014
Merced2837
San Luis Obispo2691
Placer2149
Santa Cruz2122
Yolo21024
Napa1123
Madera1042
Humboldt993
El Dorado900
San Benito872
Del Norte450
Butte440
Sutter432
Nevada411
Shasta374
Mono351
Mendocino300
Yuba301
Lake210
Inyo201
Mariposa161
Glenn160
Calaveras150
Amador100
Siskiyou70
Colusa50
Lassen50
Tuolumne40
Tehama41
Plumas40
Alpine20
Sierra10
Trinity10
Unassigned00
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