A statewide emergency has been
declared in California as wildfires, whipped up by fierce winds, continue to
sweep through the area.
Tens of thousands of homes are under
threat from the wildfires and some 180,000 people in the north have been
ordered to leave their homes and roads around Santa Rosa were packed with cars
as people tried to flee.
Another million people are expected
to lose their supplies in the hours ahead.
The evacuation order encompasses a huge
area of Sonoma County, including Santa Rosa.
The biggest blackouts in California’s
history have already left a million people without electricity.
Power companies are trying to stop
damaged cables from triggering new fires.
Sonoma has been ravaged by the Kincade Fire, which has burned through at
least 30,000 acres of land.
Fears about the extent of the wildfires led PG&E to initiate a
precautionary blackout expected to be the largest in state history.
PG&E said the power cuts would
affect 940,000 households and businesses across 36 counties in northern
California – hitting an estimated two million people.
In a statement, PG&E warned
customers that they could be affected by a mass blackout, citing forecasts of
potential extreme weather.
The warning came as the gas and electricity
company faced scrutiny over its possible role in the fires.
The Kincade Fire in northern
California began seven minutes after a nearby power line was damaged, but
PG&E has not yet confirmed if the power glitch started the blaze.
PG&E is already seeking bankruptcy protection as it faces lawsuits over
last year’s Camp Fire, which killed 85 people. The deadliest wildfire in the
state’s history was sparked by ageing equipment owned by PG&E. It spawned
billions of dollars in liability claims against the company.
In a video posted to Twitter on October 26, California Governor Gavin Newsom
said the power cuts were “infuriating everyone, and rightfully so”.
“We are going to do our best to
get through these high wind events… and get these lights back on and do
everything in our power to make sure PG&E’s never in a position where
they’re doing this to us again,” he said.
The Kincade Fire was about 10% contained as of October 27.
According to the state fire department, the fire was burning in remote, steep terrain, making access difficult.
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