California: Violent Fires, Thousands of Evacuees

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Violent fires, thousands of evacuees in California

The flames burned thousands of hectares and forced the evacuation of at least 50,000 people in a wine-growing area north of San Francisco, California.

Violent fires broke out on Thursday 24th October 2019 in various areas of California, both in the north and in the south of the state, where the flames burned thousands of hectares and forced the evacuation of at least 50,000 people.

In a wine-growing region north of San Francisco, the “Kincade Fire” hit the night of Wednesday and spread at full speed, burning more than 2000 hectares with squalls exceeding 120 km/h. Some 500 firefighters helped by helicopters and water bombers tried in vain to circumscribe it Thursday.

“We run after him almost to try to follow him,” Amy Head, spokesman for California firefighters, told local media.

Some 2,000 people received evacuation orders in the small town of Geyserville and the vineyards that border it, including one owned by American director Francis Ford Coppola.

There were reports of several houses destroyed by the flames, but no official report was available in the early evening.

“If you’re in Geyserville, leave immediately,” the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office urged Thursday morning.

Many residents of Geyserville have barely had time to gather some business before seeing the flames surge. “We thought the fire was three kilometres away, but we did not take into account the wind,” Dwight Monson, 68, told the Los Angeles Times.

The "Kincade Fire" near Geyserville, October 24, 2019 in California.
The “Kincade Fire” near Geyserville, October 24, 2019 in California. (© AFP / Josh Edelson)

The local authorities have not yet determined the cause of the incident but the electricity supplier PG & E reported an incident on one of its lines near the point of origin of “Kincade Fire”, only seven minutes before the departure of the flames, reported Thursday evening local media.

Red alert

The California authorities had placed the state on red alert to fires and several other fires broke out Thursday during the day, especially in the south, again fanned by strong winds.

A fire hit the outskirts of the city of Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, covering in a few hours 2000 hectares of brush and threatening homes. Several buildings caught fire, according to the rescue.

California has been facing drought for several years and is currently experiencing high temperatures and high winds that are particularly prone to fire.

Electricity was cut to some 180,000 customers in northern California on Thursday to prevent high-voltage power lines from sparking like those that have caused several destructive forest fires in recent years.

PG & E is held responsible for the “Camp Fire” which ravaged the small town of Paradise in northern California in early November 2018, killing 86 people and leaving tens of thousands of displaced people.

Further south, other operators have warned that they are likely to cut off power to some 300,000 customers as a precaution.

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