California wildfires: Almost 200,000 evacuated and millions left without power as blazes hit hills

28 October 2019, 21:01

Flames erupt in the tall brush surrounding an electrical pole on a hillside in California
Flames erupt in the tall brush surrounding an electrical pole on a hillside in California. Picture: PA

By Sylvia DeLuca

Authorities in northern California, USA ordered 180,000 residents to evacuate their homes on Sunday as it shut off electricity for millions of people in an effort to prevent more fires.

Thousands of residents were instructed to leave Los Angeles on Monday morning after the area was hit by fast-moving blazes.

The wildfire is threatening LA's affluent Brentwood neighbourhood, and a local resident told the LA Times he was debating whether or not to leave, and which car of his two cars should be left behind.

"I have to figure out what I'm going to do with my Ferrari," the 47-year-old man said.

Residents in the Bay Area, California also woke this morning to the smell of smoke as firefighters battled blazes in the area.

A growing number of residents in the area are wearing air masks that can help filter particles floating in the smoky air coming from the wildfires.

Experts estimate that some 3,300 homes are in the mandatory evacuation zone.

The University of California, Los Angeles announced on Twitter it was cancelling classes today due to the fires.

Firefighters work at a fire spot in Santa Clarita, the U.S. state of California
Firefighters work at a fire spot in Santa Clarita, the U.S. state of California. Picture: PA
Thousands of little spot fires burn from wind driven embers in Healdsburg, California
Thousands of little spot fires burn from wind driven embers in Healdsburg, California. Picture: PA
A firefighter assesses the damage of a home in California
A firefighter assesses the damage of a home in California. Picture: PA

Power was shut off to 2.3 million people across 38 counties in northern California over the weekend in an effort to prevent further fires. Power companies are trying to stop damaged cables from triggering new fires.

Pacific Gas & Electric initiated the precautionary blackout after the company faced scrutiny over its possible role in the fires.

The Kincade Fire began seven minutes after a nearby power line was damaged, but PG&E has not yet confirmed if the power glitch started the blaze.

Wildfires are a natural occurrence in California and can be fanned by strong winds known as Diablo winds, most common in October.

A recent drought has left the state particularly vulnerable and global warming is also playing a part, by making conditions drier, New Scientist reports.

The latest wildfires have “intensified fears that parts of California could become almost dangerous to inhabit”, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which described conditions in the Bay Area as “near apocalyptic”.

The current Kincade Fire, began on the night of Wednesday 23 October and is only 10 percent contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Sunday.

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