Emergency declared as California wildfires force evacuations - GulfToday

Emergency declared as California wildfires force evacuations


Flames from the Kincade Fire consume a car in Sonoma County, California. AP

Tens of thousands of residents near Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, fled their homes as wildfires raged across California on Friday.

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Tens of thousands evacuated as wildfires rage in California

They faced another day of destruction as over 1,000 firefighters tackled flames in the southern part of the state alone.

A state of emergency has been declared in Los Angeles and Sonoma counties.

A firefighter tries to put out a residence fire caused by a wildfire from atop a fire truck on Friday. AP

Residents fled their homes as the so-called Tick Fire scorched over 4,000 acres (1,618 hectares) and was only ten percent contained by Friday evening.

The blaze forced the shutdown of all schools in the area as well as a major freeway, creating a traffic nightmare for commuters.

New evacuations in the area were ordered early Friday as the fire that began the day before continued to spread, driven by so-called Santa Ana winds gusting up to 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (left) arrives for a press conference at the CAL FIRE Healdsburg Station on Friday. AP

Some 1,325 firefighters backed by air tankers and helicopters were battling the flames that raced toward densely packed communities and threatened 10,000 structures, officials said.

Six homes were destroyed, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told a news conference, adding that the number was expected to rise.

At least four other fires have erupted in southern California this week, fueled by high temperatures in the 80s and 90s (above 30 Celsius) and bone dry conditions.

A red flag warning indicating ripe conditions for wildfire was in effect for more than 18 million people in the southern part of the state until Friday evening.

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The National Weather Service warned that although wind speeds were set to decrease later Friday, they were expected to pick up again on Sunday and Monday in the southern part of the state.

"It looks like another Santa Ana is coming," meteorologist Eric Boldt told the media. "Right now, we're looking at moderate strength winds (Sunday and Monday)."

Still, he added, the state remains "critically dry" with little humidity, creating an environment ripe for large and dangerous fire growth.

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A number of wildfires are also raging in the northern part of the state. The most serious -- the Kincade Fire -- broke out late Wednesday in the Sonoma wine region, also prompting evacuations.

Firefighters try to put out a residence fire caused by a wildfire on Friday. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

The high risk of fires has led to pre-emptive power cuts to thousands of customers and prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in Sonoma and Los Angeles counties.

Newsom traveled to Sonoma on Friday to survey areas impacted by the Kincade Fire which has grown to around 23,700 acres and was only five percent contained as of Friday evening.

A firefighter hoses down a smoldering residence destroyed by a wildfire on Friday. AP

The blaze, which is burning in remote steep terrain, has destroyed nearly 50 structures and forced the evacuation of the entire community of Geyserville and nearby vineyards.

Newsom told reporters the area looked like a "war zone," with homes and vehicles destroyed.

Residents said they barely had time to gather their belongings as the ferocious fire approached their homes.

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