Nearly 200,000 residents of the city of Santa Rosa, 80 km north of San Francisco, were evacuated.
High temperatures, strong winds, dry soil and vegetation: everything seems in place for the fires that ravage northern California to remain out of control for days to come. Sunday, October 27, the authorities issued a new evacuation order for most of the 180,000 residents of the city of Santa RoPsa, 80 km north of San Francisco.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency across the state. All available resources, he said in a statement, are mobilized to fight against fires, especially Kincade Fire. It threatens Santa Rosa and ravage since Wednesday the region of vineyards of the great state of Western America, including 38 counties are also experiencing power cuts since Saturday. Without electricity, sometimes without communications, securing and evacuating local residents is particularly dangerous.
Before the Santa Rosa evacuation order was issued, some 90,000 people in Sonoma County had already had to flee their homes in front of the Kincade rapid advance; it has already burned more than 22,000 hectares of forest and vegetation. According to the local press, its fumes affect much of San Francisco Bay. The situation is aggravated by gusty winds of up to 160 km / h and qualified as "Potentially historic" by US meteorological services; they should not be quiet until Tuesday.
By Sunday evening, only about 5% of the Kincade had been controlled by some 3,000 firefighters mobilized in the area of flames, hilly and sometimes difficult to access. The fire destroyed nearly a hundred buildings and threatened some 80,000 on Sunday night. Several vineyards have been affected.
Preventive power outage
California firefighting services have been subjected to a fire regime for several years, which is escalating as global warming worsens. The city of Santa Rosa had already been partially burned only two years ago. In October 2017, Tubbs Fire killed 22 people and destroyed an entire area of the city, destroying 1,400 homes and buildings.
At the same time that the front was being organized against the Kincade, another fire was reported on both sides of a San Francisco Bay Highway, about fifty kilometers southeast of Santa Rosa, threatening several homes in the city of Vallejo. Traffic was interrupted on several roads in the Bay.
The causes of Kincade Fire are still uncertain, but California's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG & E), has admitted that in Geyserville, where the fire started, one of the pylons of one of its high-voltage lines had suffered a few minutes before the report of the start of fire.
Due to exceptionally fire-friendly weather conditions, the company has since Saturday been planning the largest preventative power outage in California's history to prevent further fire starts. Until Monday and the expected weakening of the wind on the region, it is in total, according to the company, 38 counties California who are or will be deprived of electricity, thus affecting from 2.3 million to 2.7 million people, according to estimates.
Evacuation orders not received
"These power outages add to the complexity of emergency response"said the spokesman for California authorities New York Times People who do not have generators can not power their phones and can not receive evacuation orders, as the areas affected by the flames spread. In addition, the unpowered relay antennas stop working: several areas are off-grid.
PG & E announces that the cuts are likely to be maintained in 32 counties until Wednesday, the winds seem not to weaken. In several semi-rural areas of the region, private water supply depends on wells that can not be operated without electric pumps: an unknown part of the homes affected by the cuts is thus deprived of access to water. The Californian energy company is at the center of a controversy: it is its failing facilities that were called into question, in 2018, in the outbreak of the most deadly fire recorded for a century in the United States, Camp Fire, which destroyed the city of Paradise, killing 86 people.
In the south of the state, in Santa Clarita, not far from Los Angeles, the situation is more encouraging than in the north. On Sunday, the Tick Fire was 70% under control about two days after it started, and the next day the 50,000 people who had fled their homes began to return home. Here, only 18 buildings were destroyed.