10/28/2019 1:05:00 PM Wildfires erupt in LA, burn in wine country
SANTA ROSA, California (AP) — Firefighters battled destructive wildfires in Northern California wine country and on the west side of Los Angeles today, trying to beat back flames that forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
California’s biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, cut off power to an estimated 2.5 million people in the northern part of the state over the weekend in yet another round of blackouts aimed at preventing windblown electrical equipment from sparking more fires.
The fire that broke out last week amid Sonoma County’s vineyards and wineries north of San Francisco grew to at least 103 square miles destroying 94 buildings, including 40 homes, and threatening 80,000 more structures, authorities said. Nearly 200,000 people were under evacuation orders, mostly from the city of Santa Rosa.
In Southern California, the blaze on the west side of Los Angeles erupted before dawn today and roared up slopes into wealthy neighborhoods, threatening thousands of homes. Tens of thousands of people were ordered to clear out.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the fire had grown to 500 acres and that he had seen five burned homes. Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said he expects the number of homes destroyed to climb.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James tweeted that he and his family had to evacuate their home in the city’s exclusive Brentwood section. There was no immediate word on its fate.
Fire conditions statewide have made California a “tinderbox,” said Jonathan Cox, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Of the state’s 58 counties, 43 were under warnings for high fire danger Sunday, with flames driven by gusts that reached more than 102 mph.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency over the weekend.
The biggest evacuation was in Sonoma County, where some people who were packing up and fleeing Sunday had done so two years ago, when devastating wildfires swept through Sonoma, Napa and neighboring counties, killing 44 people.