Friday, 25 October 2019

Wildfires sweep across homes north of Los Angeles forcing 50,000 evacuations - as firefighters battle a blaze in California's wine region where an electrical fault may have started the inferno

Los Angeles area residents ran for their lives on Thursday evening as wildfires, whipped up by strong winds,  reached residential neighborhoods, forcing 50,000 evacuations.
Two blazes are threatening LA, while another has taken hold in Sonoma County in California's wine country, where 16,000 acres are burning. Two other fires are moving across the center of the state.
Pacific Gas & Electric said it has discovered a problem with a transmission tower in Sonoma - but that it was too early to say if it was the cause of the blaze. The company had cut power in anticipation of high winds, but left live sections of high-voltage transmission lines, which were blamed for a series of deadly blazes that tore through the same area two years ago, killing 44 people.
This morning, as fire crew battled to contain the fires, it was revealed that six homes had burned down in Los Angeles and 49 buildings had been ravaged by the flames near the wine country town of Geyserville in northern California. 

A firefighter prepares to fight a wildfire as it overtakes a home Thursday in Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles. Two fires fanned by powerful winds swept through dry brush to the edge of communities in the area
A firefighter prepares to fight a wildfire as it overtakes a home Thursday in Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles. Two fires fanned by powerful winds swept through dry brush to the edge of communities in the area

Firefighters try to douse flames on a wildfire that ravaged a home Thursday in Santa Clarita
Firefighters try to douse flames on a wildfire that ravaged a home Thursday in Santa Clarita
A home goes up in flames in a wildfire zone in San Clarita, where two blazes swept through the area Thursday
A home goes up in flames in a wildfire zone in San Clarita, where two blazes swept through the area Thursday
The map above shows how at least five wildfires are burning across the state, including two that are threatening Los Angeles and one which has taken hold in Sonoma County, which is part of California's wine country
The map above shows how at least five wildfires are burning across the state, including two that are threatening Los Angeles and one which has taken hold in Sonoma County, which is part of California's wine country

The threat of hot, dry, winds driving flames far and wide was met with fleets of aircraft and hundreds of firefighters on the ground, who tried to protect homes where backyards were surrounded by trees and brush. 
Until now, the focus of California's wildfire season had been on power outages that utilities said were necessary to stop high winds over the coming days from toppling power lines and starting fires. But the season kicked into higher gear Thursday with the arrival of the new raging fires on the back of 70mph gusts. 
The Los Angeles canyon communities are facing two fires, including the Tick fire, named after Tick Canyon Road where the fire started north of the state's largest city, forcing the evacuations. 
The fires swept through dry brush to the edge of communities in the Santa Clarita area on Thursday, and the Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said there is currently no containment of either blaze. 
The flames are fed by dry winds that are predicted to strengthen across the region.
No injuries were immediately reported. 
With the continued threat, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced its campuses in the San Fernando Valley would be closed Friday due to smoke and fire concerns, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Community, Roscomare, Topanga, Valley View, Wonderland and Elementary schools will also be closed, the district announced.
Alejandro Corrales tearfully watched her home burn on a ridge in Canyon Country, taking with it her mother's ashes, other belongings and possibly a pen full of pet sheep.
'You start thinking about all the things you can't get back,' she told KCBS-TV.
Her daughter managed to take some small pets.
'Everything in the house is gone,' Corrales said. 'The panels on one of the pens where we have some rescued sheep was too hot for my daughter to open and so she couldn't let them out ... so I'm probably sure that we lost them, too.'
Her three children were safe.
'I'm just a little overwhelmed and I'm literally seeing sticks and fire of what used to be our home,' she said.
A burning structure on Thursday collapses during the Kincade fire in Geyserville, which is part of the state's wine country
A burning structure on Thursday collapses during the Kincade fire in Geyserville, which is part of the state's wine country
A fire truck drives by a burning hillside as the Kincade Fire burns a hillside in Geyserville. Fueled by high winds, the Kincade Fire has burned over 7,000 acres in a matter of hours
A fire truck drives by a burning hillside as the Kincade Fire burns a hillside in Geyserville. Fueled by high winds, the Kincade Fire has burned over 7,000 acres in a matter of hours
Homes continue to burn after the Kincade Fire moved through the area
Homes continue to burn after the Kincade Fire moved through the area
Embers fly from a tree as the Kincade Fire burns near Geyserville on Thursday
Embers fly from a tree as the Kincade Fire burns near Geyserville on Thursday
Horrifying photos show firefighters battling the blaze overnight as it continued to spread. A fire truck is seen rushing toward the flames during the Kincade fire
Horrifying photos show firefighters battling the blaze overnight as it continued to spread. A fire truck is seen rushing toward the flames during the Kincade fire 
In the rural areas, where at least two ranch houses burned, people rushed to rescue dozens of horses, donkeys, goats, a pig and even an emu.
No injuries were reported but fire officials say a firefighting helicopter was struck by a bird and its windshield damage, forcing it out of the fight until Friday.
PG&E says it's too soon to know whether faulty equipment started the wind-whipped Kincade fire burning in Northern California wine country.
The utility told state regulators that it discovered conducting wire on the tower malfunctioned on Wednesday night in the Geysers, the world's largest geothermal field. 
The wildfire was reported minutes later in the same area.

The Sonoma County sheriff's office confirmed that residents had to flee their homes overnight due to the blaze. Firefighters confer while battling the Kincade Fire near Geyserville on Thursday
The Sonoma County sheriff's office confirmed that residents had to flee their homes overnight due to the blaze. Firefighters confer while battling the Kincade Fire near Geyserville on Thursday

Susi Weaver, the manager for the Hawkeye Ranch in the Mayacamas Mountains in Geyserville is seen spraying down the dry brush as the Kincade fire spreads across her property
Susi Weaver, the manager for the Hawkeye Ranch in the Mayacamas Mountains in Geyserville is seen spraying down the dry brush as the Kincade fire spreads across her property
The National Weather Service (NWS) says winds around the highest areas of Sonoma County have been blowing at speeds up to 70mph, and elsewhere in the region there are winds between 30mph and 50mph. Embers were seen blowing in the wind at the bottom of a tree trunk
The National Weather Service (NWS) says winds around the highest areas of Sonoma County have been blowing at speeds up to 70mph, and elsewhere in the region there are winds between 30mph and 50mph. Embers were seen blowing in the wind at the bottom of a tree trunk
CEO Bill Johnson said the tower is 43-years-old, which isn't uncommon in the industry, and had been inspected four times in the last two years. He said the tower appears to have been in 'excellent condition.'
PG&E cut power to distribution lines in the area, but not transmission lines because the wind speed didn't call for it.
Authorities initially ordered 2,000 people to evacuate the state's popular wine country as a wildfire exploded to more than 15 square miles (39 square kilometers), whipped up by strong winds that prompted utilities statewide to impose blackouts to prevent such fires from igniting.
Officials ordered an evacuation of the entire community of Geyserville, home to about 900 people and a popular stop for wine country tourists, along with nearby residents. The blaze threatened some of the area's famed wineries and the River Rock Casino as the blaze raged on the outskirts of town. 
While battling the blaze, a firefighter came across a fire whirl that was whipping across the dry brush
While battling the blaze, a firefighter came across a fire whirl that was whipping across the dry brush
This photo shows flames approaching rolling hills of grape vines in Sonoma County, which is the heart of California's world famous wine country
This photo shows flames approaching rolling hills of grape vines in Sonoma County, which is the heart of California's world famous wine country
As of Thursday morning, Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency, says the blaze near Geyserville had grown to 10,000 acres
 As of Thursday morning, Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency, says the blaze near Geyserville had grown to 10,000 acres
In Southern California, a wall of flame rolled along the parched foothills north of Los Angeles, where thousands of homes have sprung up in recent decades.
Officials told people to flee along a mileslong stretch of Santa Clarita, where the fire quickly consumed more than a square mile (2.5 square kilometers) of dry brush and threatened homes. Winds gusting to about 40 mph (65 kph) pushed the blaze as enormous plumes of smoke visible for miles covered neighborhoods.
A second fire broke out about 10 miles (16 kilometers) away, racing up a hillside to the edge of a neighborhood in Castaic and burning at least two houses. People used hoses to try to protect their properties. 
A vehicle burns on a property that's engulfed in flames during the Kincade fire near Geyserville Thursday
A vehicle burns on a property that's engulfed in flames during the Kincade fire near Geyserville Thursday
Firefighters use a drip torch to light a backfire ahead of the Kincade fire on Thursday in Geyserville. Backfiring is a controlled burn. In this strategy, firefighters attempt to halt the advance of a wildfire, or redirect it, by burning up fuel in its path
Firefighters use a drip torch to light a backfire ahead of the Kincade fire on Thursday in Geyserville. Backfiring is a controlled burn. In this strategy, firefighters attempt to halt the advance of a wildfire, or redirect it, by burning up fuel in its path 
A helicopter passes a smoke plume as the Kincade Fire burns in unincorporated Sonoma County on Thursday
A helicopter passes a smoke plume as the Kincade Fire burns in unincorporated Sonoma County on Thursday
Vineyard workers watch the Kincade Fire burning in the hills above Geyserville on Thursday
Vineyard workers watch the Kincade Fire burning in the hills above Geyserville on Thursday
Among those fleeing Geyserville was 81-year-old Harry Bosworth, who awoke before sunrise to find a firetruck and firefighters in his driveway. As he and his wife drove off, flames surrounded their driveway and their barn caught fire.
'I could see the fire coming, so we got the heck out of there,' Bosworth said after escaping to his daughter's house in the neighboring town of Healdsburg.
Julia Jackson of Geyserville-based Jackson Family Wines, which owns more than 40 wine labels and thousands of acres of vineyards, posted on Instagram that her home was 'burnt down to the ground.'
'Stuff is just stuff. Thank God I'm alive,' she wrote. Jackson, who founded a climate change conference, said such fires are why she is doing the work.
Another Geyserville evacuee, Isaac Hale, said he woke up to the sound of authorities ordering him out.
'The highway patrol showed up banging on the door, ordering everyone to evacuate because the fire was so close,' Hale said, seated on top of his SUV near a road closure checkpoint. 'The fire, it just spread so fast.'
The garage doors of a home burns at a vineyard Thursday during the Kincade fire near Geyserville which is home to about 900 residents
The garage doors of a home burns at a vineyard Thursday during the Kincade fire near Geyserville which is home to about 900 residents 
Embers fly off a tree as a bulldozer is prepared to help fight fire during the Kincade fire near Geyserville Thursday
Embers fly off a tree as a bulldozer is prepared to help fight fire during the Kincade fire near Geyserville Thursday
It started Wednesday night near the Geysers, the world's largest geothermal field, where nearly two dozen power plants draw steam from more than 350 mountain wells to create electricity, California Department Of Forestry And Fire Protection incident commander Mike Parkes said.
It was fueled overnight by 76 mph (112 kph) winds in rugged terrain that was hard to reach, he said. Some people were refusing to leave despite the danger, Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said.
'Please heed our evacuation order,' he said in a televised news conference. 'We really need to be able to fight the fire, rather than worrying about rescuing you.
'This is an emotional time for many people. It's only been two years since the fires that devastated our community. For many this will be a very stressful and anxious time.'
The National Weather Service (NWS) says winds around the highest areas of Sonoma County had reached speeds up to 70mph, and elsewhere in the region between 30mph and 50mph.
According to dispatch reports, the Kincade fire spread to about 1,000 acres by 11pm Wednesday night.
As of Thursday morning, Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency, said the blaze near Geyserville had grown to 10,000 acres and had no containment. All residents of Geyserville were ordered to evacuate. Geyserville has about 900 residents and is a popular stop for wine country tourists.
The fire raged amid rolling blackouts instituted after utility electrical equipment was blamed for setting several blazes in recent years that killed scores of people and burned thousands of homes. 
PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty said parts of Geyserville lost power as scheduled Wednesday. The company's outages are affecting half a million people or nearly 180,000 customers.
This graphic shows the evacuation area where the Kincade fire is currently spreading in California
This graphic shows the evacuation area where the Kincade fire is currently spreading in California 
Cal Fire Captain Whitney Wong works the fire line to fight the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County near Geyserville Thursday
Cal Fire Captain Whitney Wong works the fire line to fight the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County near Geyserville Thursday
In Southern California, hot and dry Santa Ana winds led Southern California Edison to cut power to more than 27,000 customers. It was considering additional power cuts to more than 386,000 customers.
The latest outages come two weeks after PG&E shut down power for several days to about 2 million people.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, is among those who have criticized PG&E and other utilities for the blackouts and their handling of wildfire danger.
A firefighting bulldozer moves into position along Geysers Road while battling the Kincade fire, near Geyserville on Thursday
A firefighting bulldozer moves into position along Geysers Road while battling the Kincade fire, near Geyserville on Thursday 
Vines are silhouetted against the Kincade fire seen burning in a valley near Geyserville on Thursday
Vines are silhouetted against the Kincade fire seen burning in a valley near Geyserville on Thursday 
The utility filed for bankruptcy protection in January as it faced billions of dollars in damages from such wildfires. The investor-owned energy company has set aside billions for insurers and wildfire victims while facing a public backlash over its handling of the outages. 
UCLA climate scientist tweeted that it 'looks like #KincadeFire in #Sonoma County, already large & fast-moving, may well burn all the way toward east side of #AlexanderValley --where nearly continuous line of vineyards will hopefully act as broad firebreak. 65mph+ winds in hills, but nearly calm in valleys.'
A photographer on site said they saw at least three homes completely destroyed by the fire in Sonoma County. Authorities said it's too early for firefighters to assess the structures that have burned.
Cows stand on a hill as the Kincade Fire approaches on Thursday in Geyserville
Cows stand on a hill as the Kincade Fire approaches on Thursday in Geyserville
Smoke billows from a building engulfed in flames at a vineyard during the Kincade fire near Geyserville on Thursday
Smoke billows from a building engulfed in flames at a vineyard during the Kincade fire near Geyserville on Thursday 
An evacuation warning for the town of northern Healdsburg also was issued.
Separately, officials responded to a vegetation fire in Annadel State Park southeast of Santa Rosa, the local fire department said.
Meanwhile, portions of Northern California remain in the dark after PG&E cut power to 500,000 residents to prevent wildfires from sparking during dry and windy conditions. 
Lights went out across large portions of the state's northern areas on Wednesday as PG&E began its second massive blackout in two weeks.
Nearly 28,000 customers are without power in parts of Sonoma County, which lost electricity around 3pm on Wednesday. 
The company said the rolling blackouts stretching from the Sierra foothills in the northeast to areas north of the San Francisco Bay area would ultimately impact a half-million families as part of the 180,000 customers within the 17 counties.
'We understand the hardship caused by these shutoffs,' said Bill Johnson, CEO of PG&E. 'But we also understand the heartbreak and devastation caused by catastrophic wildfires.' 
The utilities company said the precautionary blackouts are designed to keep winds that could gust to 60mph or more from knocking branches into power lines or toppling them, sparking wildfires. 
The latest outage comes two weeks after PG&E shut down the power for several days to about 2 million people in northern and central California.
The current outages were to last about 48 hours, the utility company said. But its seven-day forecast shows a likelihood of another planned blackout across a much larger area. 
The timing wasn't clear but it could start as early as Saturday, when even heavier winds are expected to move through parts of California.
 'This could be the strongest wind event of the season, unfortunately,' PG&E meteorologist Scott Strenfel said.
Strenfel called the current wind event a 'California-wide phenomenon'.  
In the south, where hot, dry Santa Ana winds hit Thursday, officials said flames are no longer visible, but mandatory and voluntary evacuations remain in place as the winds gust through the region and create extreme fire risk. 
The Forest Service says 80 homes are under evacuation in the city and a Red Cross shelter has opened at a high school.
Southern California Edison warned that it might black out about 308,000 customers - perhaps 750,000 people - depending on the forecast. 
San Diego Gas & Electric warned of power shutoffs to about 24,000 customers. 

A home burns at a vineyard during the Kincade fire near Geyserville on Thursday
A home burns at a vineyard during the Kincade fire near Geyserville on Thursday 
A home burns during the Kincade fire near Geyserville on Thursday as the fast-moving wildfire roared through California wine country
A home burns during the Kincade fire near Geyserville on Thursday as the fast-moving wildfire roared through California wine country
A firefighter hoses a hot spot while battling the Kincade fire in Geyserville on Thursday
A firefighter hoses a hot spot while battling the Kincade fire in Geyserville on Thursday 
A burned car sits next to a swing after the Kincade Fire moved through Geyersville on Thursday
 A burned car sits next to a swing after the Kincade Fire moved through Geyersville on Thursday
The cause of the Kincade fire is under investigation.  A structure is seen burning Thursday morning during the Kincade fire
The cause of the Kincade fire is under investigation.  A structure is seen burning Thursday morning during the Kincade fire
What appears to be a home, has been reduced to ash and rubble after the Kincade fire moved through the area on Thursday
What appears to be a home, has been reduced to ash and rubble after the Kincade fire moved through the area on Thursday 
This photo shows an aerial view of the fire as it continued to spread Thursday morning
This photo shows an aerial view of the fire as it continued to spread Thursday morning 
Thick clouds of smoke billowed form the fire as it tore through Sonoma County Thursday morning
Thick clouds of smoke billowed form the fire as it tore through Sonoma County Thursday morning 
This aerial image shows the fire spreading across several thousand acres on Thursday
This aerial image shows the fire spreading across several thousand acres on Thursday 
Geysers Road was one of several roads that had to be closed due to the raging fire on Thursday
Geysers Road was one of several roads that had to be closed due to the raging fire on Thursday 
Massive clouds of smoke blanket the area during the Kincade fire on Thursday
Massive clouds of smoke blanket the area during the Kincade fire on Thursday 
Flames shoot from under the hood of a burning car near a vineyard after the Kincade fire tore through the area on Thursday
Flames shoot from under the hood of a burning car near a vineyard after the Kincade fire tore through the area on Thursday 
A firefighters checks out a burning car as the Kincade fire burned in the hills above Geyserville Thursday
A firefighters checks out a burning car as the Kincade fire burned in the hills above Geyserville Thursday
A pile of ash and debris burns along the roadside as a fire truck passes by after the Kincade Fire burned through the area on Thursday
A pile of ash and debris burns along the roadside as a fire truck passes by after the Kincade Fire burned through the area on Thursday 
Firefighters put out hots spots as the Kincade fire burned in the hills above Geyserville, on Thursday
Firefighters put out hots spots as the Kincade fire burned in the hills above Geyserville, on Thursday 
A firefighter sprays water on the exposure of a home, as an outbuilding burns after the Kincade Fire burned through the area  on Thursday
A firefighter sprays water on the exposure of a home, as an outbuilding burns after the Kincade Fire burned through the area  on Thursday
A venting propane tank burns after the Kincade Fire tore through the area near Geyserville on Thursday
A venting propane tank burns after the Kincade Fire tore through the area near Geyserville on Thursday 

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