Numerous fires swept across California this week amidst widespread power outages, as evidence emerged that electrical equipment may have been involved in the ignition of multiple blazes.
The Maria Fire, which started on Thursday, Oct. 31, quickly spread overnight to more than 8,000 acres on Friday with no containment in the Santa Paula area of Ventura County in Southern California. Areas of Los Angeles County have been placed under mandatory evacuation orders, affecting more than 7,500 people.
Meanwhile, the Kincade Fire in Northern California, which began on Oct. 23, has burned over 77,700 acres and prompted the governor to issue a state of emergency. It recently reached 68 percent containment, but is still burning across parts of the state.
“We have well over 4,000 firefighters assigned to this incident. They come from the southern border to the northern border, [as well as] Arizona and Nevada,” Fresno Fire PIO Jay Tracy told The Epoch Times.
The total number of personnel assigned to fight the Kincade fire was 4957 as of Nov. 1, according to Cal Fire, including 543 engines, 64 water tenders, 15 helicopters, 105 hand crews and 66 dozers. On top of this, numerous air tankers across the state are flying fire suppression missions.
The California National Guard, local law enforcement and California Highway Patrol were also assisting in ensuring the safety of the residents during the evacuation process, Tracy confirmed.
Fire conditions statewide prompted the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to issue red flag warnings for 43 of the state’s 58 counties earlier this week. As of Friday, six counties in Southern California remained under the red flag warning.
While there have been no fatalities in the Kincade Fire, four firefighters have been injured fighting the blaze. Infrastructure damage has been extensive with the latest report from Cal Fire showing 352 structures destroyed, 55 damaged, with thousands threatened by the fire.
The 150-year-old Soda Rock Winery, located in Healdsburg, Calif., about 70 miles north of San Francisco, was among the structures that were destroyed in the fire.
Dozens of schools across Sonoma County were closed this week, with some remaining closed through Friday. Earlier this week, between 185,000 and 190,000 residents were evacuated to evacuation centers in the region. One of the shelters was affected by the PG&E planned blackouts as a result of the strong winds in the region coinciding with the fires.
“[There were] some issues with the power outages. [The emergency personnel] weren’t particularly looking to send people to a shelter that didn’t have power. That expanded the range that some of the evacuation centers fell within,” Tracy said.
The city of San Francisco also opened its doors to evacuees with hotels offering discounted rates for those affected by the fire, and St. Mary’s Cathedral also took in evacuees.
More than one million residents lost power in over 35 counties this week due to scheduled power outages. Strong winds played a huge role in power shutoffs as PG&E erred on the side of caution in relation to winds potentially causing electrical fire. The weekend of the 26th saw nearly 2.7 million go without power, frustrating many residents.
“They don’t seem to know what the hell they’re doing. I’m not sure that they’re really protecting anything,” Santa Rosa evacuee Chris Sherman told ABC 7.
PG&E didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment on the situation.
The company on Wednesday filed two reports with the California Public Utility Commission regarding electrical equipment possibly being involved in the ignition of two smaller fires in Northern California.
The causes of the Kincade and Maria fires are still under investigation.
“The winds have died down a little, so they are hoping to make a good impact on the fire. They are hoping they can make an impact on containment,” Tracy said of the winds, which in some cases reached over 102 miles per hour.