A wind-powered wildfire seriously injured two fighters and forced evacuation orders for around 60,000 people on Monday, as California braced for what officials believed may be the strongest wind event this year
The Silverado fire started early in Orange County, quickly jumping onto a freeway and exploding to 4,000 acres The blaze had doubled in size in two hours, with strong gusts of wind pushing the flames along the bushy ridges of Silverado Canyon towards thousands of homes A total of 20,000 homes in the town of Irvine have been evacuated, firefighters say
The cause of the blaze was not immediately known About 500 firefighters battling the blaze Two were seriously injured with second and third degree burns to more than 50% of their bodies, according to the Orange County Fire Authority
« This is one of the hardest things a fire chief can do, to report that a member of his family of firefighters has been injured or worse, » said Fire Chief Brian Fennessy » It’s tough for me, tough for all of my firefighters and certainly tough for the families of my two injured firefighters »
The wildfire area experiences erratic wind speeds of 20-30 mph, with gusts up to 70 mph Captain Ben Gonzalez, spokesperson for the Orange County Fire Authority, described the winds as « swirling » and « unpredictable » The wind whipped smoke and ash into frenzied funnels, embers and sparkling flames wilder and more chaotic Trees and vegetation curved and swayed dangerously with each gust
The winds are so strong that the firefighting planes, which spray water and flame retardants from above, cannot fly, Fennessy said
« It’s a tough fire, » said Fennessy « We have very strong winds, very low humidity Our firefighters are among the bravest in the world It’s a very dangerous job »
Meanwhile, much of southern California remained on red flag alert until Tuesday with strong Santa Ana winds underway, according to the National Weather Service Parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties were also experiencing high winds, with a weather station east of Santa Clarita recording a gust of 96 mph and a station in Angel National Forest recording one at 79 mph
Southern California Edison had earlier said he was considering security outages for 71,000 customers in six counties as of Monday, with San Bernardino County potentially the most affected Statewide, utility companies have cut power to about 300,000 customers to prevent their equipment from starting wildfires amid high winds and dangerously dry weather conditions
One million Californians are expected to be without electricity on Monday due to the wind
Northern California experienced gusty winds Sunday night, with a weather station on Mount St. Helena recording a hurricane-force gust of 89 mph late Sunday and sustained winds of 76 mph early Monday, however, the winds had calmed down slightly and no new major fires were reported
Another wave of winds was forecast Monday evening, and a red flag warning for the mountainous areas of the East and North Bay was extended until 5 p.m. on Tuesday
« This event is by far the biggest we have seen this year, the most extreme weather, » said Aaron Johnson, vice president of fire safety and public engagement with the utility. « We are trying to find ways to make events less difficult »
PSPS shutdowns likely prevented dangerous fires last night It’s almost impossible to imagine winds of this magnitude wouldn’t have sparked a major blaze in recent years So, while this is a flawed interim measure, it probably served its purpose #CAwx
Crews were able to quickly contain small fires that broke out in Sonoma and Shasta counties on Sunday As of Monday morning, only two fires remained uncontained in Shasta County: the Point fire, which burned 275 acres , and the Dersch fire on 133 acres Firefighters had both fires at 90% containment The causes were under investigation
The weather this week was similar to the devastating fires in the California wine country in 2017 and the Kincade blaze last year Fire officials said the PG&E transmission lines set off the ‘Sonoma County fire last October, which destroyed hundreds of homes and left nearly 100,000 people to flee
The winds are slowly easing in some places, but many stations around the #BayArea still meet or near the red flag It’s not over yet #cawx #cafire picTwittercom / 1O4IrZY15S
Los Angeles County has urged residents to sign up for emergency notifications and prepare to evacuate, preferably by arranging to stay with family or friends in less-risk areas that are not suspected of having coronavirus Local fire officials have increased staffing as a precautionary measure
« Reality arrived at midnight and until Tuesday we will be on the highest alert conditions we have seen this year, » said Kevin McGowan, director of the county’s emergency management office.
The red circles indicate where the red flag conditions are right now, and their size is related to wind speed #CAwx #SoCal picTwittercom / MoWHjTFtMD
Scientists say climate change has made California much drier, meaning trees and other plants are more flammable Traditionally, October and November are the worst months for fires, but already this year the State has experienced more than 8,600 wildfires that burned a record 6,400 square miles (16,576 km2) and destroyed approximately 9,200 homes, businesses and other structures There were 31 deaths
Many of this year’s devastating fires were sparked by thousands of dry lightning strikes, but some remain under investigation for potential electrical causes While the biggest fires in California have been wholly or significantly contained, more 5,000 firefighters remain in 20 fires, including a dozen major incidents, state fire officials said
This is the fifth time this year that Pacific Gas & Electric, the country’s largest utility, has cut power to its customers to reduce the risk of power lines or other equipment failing or fouled can start a fire The utility cut power to 225,000 customers in Northern California on Sunday and then did the same for 136,000 other customers in a total of 36 counties.
PG&E officials said the planned outages were a safety measure and understood they were weighing on residents, especially with many homeworkers and their children taking online classes due to the pandemic coronavirus
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said he was concerned about residents of foothills communities during power outages as cell service can be spotty and it’s the only way many can stay informed in the event of a power failure
« It’s pretty hard for them to have to see them again and again, » he said.
Silverado, Emergency Evacuation, Irvine, Orange County Fire Authority, Wildfire, Southern California
World news – United States – Wind-blown fire injures two people in southern California as thousands forced to evacuate
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