CALIFORNIA has issued a state of emergency as hurricane winds have whipped up wildfires in both the north and south of the state.
So far, an estimated 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as fires fueled by winds topping 70mph have destroyed land and buildings across the state.
Two firefighters were injured Sunday battling a blaze in Northern California, while police said nine people were hurt as heavy winds caused a 30-foot-tree to fall onto a farmers’ market in the city of Martinez.
The Kincade fire in the north has now burned more than 50,000 acres in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, since Wednesday, an increase from 30,000 acres a day earlier.
That fire is reported to be between five and 10 percent contained, and, on Sunday, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office declared that around 90 to 95 percent of people in mandatory evacuation zones are now fleeing.
Governor Gavin Newsom estimated that the Kincade fire had led to evacuation orders for around 180,000 residents, while CalFire says it has destroyed 94 structures and damaged 17 more.
Meanwhile, in Southern California, the Tick fire near Santa Clarita has destroyed at least 22 structures and is currently threatening thousands more, Los Angeles County Fire said Sunday.
Around 1,000 firefighters are working to tackle that blaze.
California may not be in for much respite, as strong winds are expected to continue blowing into Monday, and a second batch of winds could hit the south of the state in the middle of the week.
According to the National Weather Service, winds reached between 70 and 80 mph on Sunday – with 74 to 95 mph classing as the wind speed necessary for a Category 1 hurricane.
Such speeds could lead to “erratic fire behaviour” and send embers for miles, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has warned.
Speaking of such conditions, Governor Newsom said Sunday that the “fire weather conditions are unprecedented due to the scale, scope, wind speed and dry fuel conditions,” describing the current situation as a “historic wind event.”
In a statement, Newsom added: “We are deploying every resource available, and are coordinating with numerous agencies as we continue to respond to these fires.
“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.”
Around 3,000 fire personnel are currently working to fight the Kincade fire in the north, which injured two firefighters this weekend.
Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox said Sunday one firefighter sustained serious burn injuries and was airlifted to UC Davis Medical Center.
The other firefighter who was burned had minor injuries.
Elsewhere, a hero firefighter shielded two people from flames with this fire shelter and all three were hospitalised with non-life-threatening injuries, Cal Fire said.
The Kincade fire has burned 85 square miles so far, threatening 80,000 buildings.
Outside of the fire zones, efforts to avert future blazes have also left nearly one million people in the dark.
Pacific Gas & Electric said Sunday that it had shut off power to 960,000 customers across Northern California.
The company has made such shutoffs as preventative measures during recent weeks, but this weekend’s blackout is believed to be one of the largest.
PG&E’s chief executive Andy Vesey told reporters that employees from as far as Florida and Canada have now been contacted, as the company has requested an extra 1,000 extra utility workers to help with its efforts in California.
PG&E also warned that additional power cuts could follow this week, affecting 32 counties throughout the state and nearly three million people in total.
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Blackouts on such a scale would make them the largest fire-prevention blackouts in the state’s history.
Shutoffs of this nature could become the norm, PG&E has warned, as the company was criticized following its role in the state’s most destructive blaze, the 2018 Camp Fire, after which the company reportedly paid out billions of dollars.
Airbnb has announced that 700 of its hosts in Northern California have made their homes free to displaced residents until November 7.
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