California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Friday as massive fire-fighters continued to contain wildfires across the country for the badly affected Sonoma and Los Angeles counties.
“Governor Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation for the counties of Sonoma and Los Angeles due to the effects of the Kincade and Tick fires, which have destroyed structures, threatened homes and critical infrastructure, and caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents,” Xinhua news agency reported citing a statement from his office.
On Friday afternoon, Newsom visited Sonoma County to survey areas impacted by the Kincade fire, which grew to 21,900 acres with 5 per cent containment and met emergency responders, residents, health officers and local and state officials.
During his trip, Newsom slammed the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), a publicly-traded, investor-owned utility that serves two-thirds of northern California, saying the company must take responsibility for the wildfires that the local residents have been suffering for years.
California utility companies are under increasing scrutiny by regulatory authorities since sparks from aging or over taxed utility equipment have been blamed for some of the state’s most disastrous wildfires in recent history.
More than 500 firefighters were battling the blaze in Sonoma County, but their overnight efforts could only focus on evacuations and the high winds made the fire difficult to contain.
About 2,000 residents of Geyserville and the surrounding area threatened by the Kincade fire were evacuated and at least 1,300 firefighters were assigned to battle the blaze.
On Friday, the brush fire, dubbed Tick fire burning in Los Angeles county, has swept 4,300 acres.
On Thursday evening, the flames had spread to 0.8 sq.km within 20 minutes and scorched over 3.4 sq.km.
At least six structures were destroyed and another 15,000 more threatened by the fire.
The fire came amid red flag warnings issued for some areas in Southern California due to extreme wildfire risk.
Southern California Edison (SCE), another utility in that part of the state, shut off power to more than 15,000 customers in Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. Farther south, more than 320 customers in Descanso and Alpine lost power after San Diego Gas & Electric turned it off, citing “high winds and dangerous weather conditions.
In 2018, of the 44 people killed, 42 died in Northern California’s Camp Fire, while two others were killed in the Woolsey Fire in Malibu.
(With inputs from IANS)