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

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.

Cases: 79293

Reported Deaths: 973
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah18432251
Washington11175104
Marion9745153
Clackamas684183
Lane458650
Umatilla450250
Jackson402838
Deschutes255815
Malheur247245
Yamhill181817
Linn164124
Polk134319
Douglas99819
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Jefferson87811
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Morrow6757
Lincoln67015
Josephine5795
Wasco55419
Columbia5444
Coos4583
Hood River4343
Clatsop3820
Baker3014
Crook2486
Curry1532
Tillamook1480
Lake1451
Grant1391
Harney1051
Wallowa723
Gilliam230
Sherman230
Wheeler60
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1286550

Reported Deaths: 19553
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles4218817782
San Bernardino991041154
Riverside900891457
San Diego861421040
Orange816531586
Kern42937451
Sacramento39367591
Fresno39324488
Santa Clara36673495
Alameda30980522
San Joaquin26784519
Contra Costa25264261
Stanislaus22876433
Tulare21789314
Ventura21208185
Imperial16507358
Monterey16064124
San Francisco16058161
San Mateo15040170
Sonoma12795160
Merced12427185
Santa Barbara11720138
Kings1155589
Solano1111981
Marin7873129
Placer694172
Madera648290
San Luis Obispo637838
Shasta536552
Yolo506881
Santa Cruz476633
Butte424460
Sutter373319
Napa329818
El Dorado26384
Yuba231011
Lassen22203
San Benito200717
Tehama180026
Mendocino165723
Nevada145510
Tuolumne112811
Glenn99611
Humboldt9939
Lake97221
Colusa7566
Siskiyou7524
Amador74016
Mono5773
Calaveras55322
Del Norte3841
Inyo31416
Plumas2390
Trinity1700
Modoc1620
Mariposa1483
Alpine520
Sierra230
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