Dry Winds Bring Fresh Fire Fears to Blackened – and Blacked Out – California

A helicopter drops water as a wildfire called the Getty fire burns on Kenter Canyon in Los Angeles on Monday. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Record-breaking Santa Ana winds will take aim at Southern California on Tuesday night, and fire officials fear gusts that could reach up to 80 mph overnight may fan a wildfire threatening over 7,000 homes near Los Angeles.

The National Weather Service warned the peak gusts could occur in the hills and canyons not too far from where the Getty Fire is burning in West Los Angeles. The blaze has so far burned over 650 acres and containment has grown to 15%, but strong winds overnight that could ground firefighting helicopters.

Throughout the day Tuesday, helicopters dropped neon pink retardant near the Getty Museum art center and several affluent neighborhoods with multimillion-dollar homes that were threatened by the blaze that climbed up the steep hillsides near the Sepulveda Pass. Fire officials confirmed Tuesday the blaze was sparked when a eucalyptus tree fell on a LA Department of Water and Power line.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti toured the area with California Governor Gavin Newsom where 12 homes were destroyed and approximately 7,000 residents were ordered to leave their homes.

Newsom said, “It’s been a tough week. It’s been a long week.”

About 450 miles north of LA in Sonoma County, nearly 90,000 homes stand in the path of the Kincade Fire. The blaze has charred over 75,000 acres, darkened skies and prompted thousands to flee, though containment is up to 15% according to Cal Fire. Some 124 structures – including 57 homes – have been destroyed as of Tuesday morning.

Fire officials say they are holding off on letting residents return to their homes in Sonoma County because of strong dry winds that returned to the area Tuesday. Nearly 4,000 firefighters are on the lines fighting the Kincade Fire.

To the south of Sonoma, Marin County lost electricity in a strategic power outage by Pacific Gas & Electric on Tuesday morning. The outage was early – about 15 hours early – according to a PG&E spokesperson on social media.

“This is earlier than estimated due to dynamic weather environment and impacts on our transmission system from the Kincade Fire,” wrote Deanna Contreras from PG&E on Twitter. The power was set to shutoff at 11 p.m. but instead residents were left in the dark around 8 a.m.

Newsom said a wide swath of customers in Northern California are being burdened by the strategic power blackouts from PG&E which could last as long as a week.

“Which is simply unacceptable and that goes to the issue of greed and mismanagement and decades of a utility that didn’t focus on you and public safety. They focused on shareholders,” said Newsom.

The governor said California has made improvements in fighting its forest and wildland fires, but there’s still more to be done. Newsom noted former Governor Jerry Brown’s statement before leaving office that the robust fire season would become a “new normal” in California.

“I recognize what every single person watching recognizes – that good enough never is and we’re not even close to where we need to be in this state. This is not the new normal and it doesn’t take a decade to fix this damn thing,” said Newsom.

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