California on high alert as fires destroy dozens of homes

Sunday, 13 Oct, 2019

The threat of wildfire in California is high, and there were several wildfires burning across the northern part of the state. The cause of the fire had not been determined.

"It's not the fire itself but the danger of wind taking an ember, blowing it someplace, and seeing entire neighborhoods overnight get lit", Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday.

Still, some homeowners were seen using garden hoses to try to put out flames on their property, officials said.

They added that it had damaged or destroyed at least 31 structures and was 13 percent contained as of Friday evening.

The blaze, which officials have named the Saddleridge Fire, ignited late Thursday in the city of Sylmar.

LAFD reports the fire is at 0% containment, with more than 1,000 firefighters assigned to combat it. Personnel from the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department and U.S. Forest Service are on the scene, helping with the effort.

The blaze is unpredictable, LAPD Chief Michel Moore warned, and he urged those in evacuation areas to follow orders to leave. "If we ask you to evacuate, please evacuate", he urged residents.

Firefighters try to protect surrounding homes as they battle the Sandalwood Fire in the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park in Calimesa, Calif., on October 10, 2019. Travelers are also urged to have patience when traveling to or from the area. The fire in Calimesa was caused by a trash truck that dumped a load of burning trash that spread into vegetation, officials said.

The daughter of a Northern California man who died when his oxygen equipment failed during a planned power shutdown says she doesn't understand why Pacific Gas & Electric Co. turned off the electricity.

Although numerous blazes were quickly contained by firefighters, the risk to life and property has prompted Pacific Gas and Electric Co cut power to about 600,000 customers, a move that California Governor Gavin Newsom blamed on years of mismanagement by the utility.

The National Weather Service said a wind advisory and a red flag warning are in effect.

Hot, dry winds sweeping into Southern California raised concerns that the region's largest utility could widen power shut-offs Friday to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires.

"They're in bankruptcy due to their awful management going back decades", Newsom said Wednesday.

But it may take several days to fully restore power after the weather passes and safety inspections are completed, said Michael Lewis, senior vice president for PG&E Electric Operations, in a statement.

Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA in Los Angeles, tweeted that the power shutoffs were "a necessary bad idea in the short term" that shifts the financial costs from the power companies to the public. Maximum winds of 46 miles per hour were recorded in Sylmar on Thursday night, the National Weather Service said.