News by VICE

‘Violent and Damaging Winds’ Are About to Make California's Fires Even Worse

Meanwhile, millions of Californians are facing blackouts, and nearly 100,000 buildings are threatened.

by David Gilbert
Oct 29 2019, 11:00am

More than a dozen wildfires are raging across California, and the National Weather Service has issued an extreme red flag warning for the entire state in the face of ”violent and damaging winds” that are predicted to begin on Tuesday night.

The National Weather Service is warning that winds, which reached hurricane strength over the weekend, could gust up to 80mph in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

Meanwhile, utility company PG&E announced late on Monday that around 1.5 million people face more preventive power cuts as the Kincade fire continues to rage in Sonoma county in the north of the state. Favorable weather conditions on Monday allowed firefighters to contain some of the fire, which has now burned over 74,000 acres.

Residents are growing frustrated at PG&E, the country’s largest electricity supplier, which announced that its next blackout will start early Tuesday and affect 605,000 customers — about 1.5 million people — in 29 Northern California counties.

“PG&E can’t figure out how to deliver power reliably without killing people,” Petaluma resident Scotty Richardson, who runs a business from his home, told AP. “This is more than three strikes — it’s a failure of epic proportions.”

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January after facing hundreds of lawsuits from victims of the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, and now residents say the blackouts are driven by a fear of further legal action.

“It’s so obvious it’s just to protect them from more liability,” Janet Luoma, a Santa Rosa resident, told AP.

The announcement came before the previous blackout, which hit 2.5 million customers, had ended. For many customers, power went out on Saturday, and it is unclear when it will be restored — before it is switched off again.

READ: PG&E execs were literally partying in wine country while planning to cut power to millions of Californians

The Kincade fire began last Wednesday, seven minutes after a nearby power line was damaged, though PG&E has yet to confirm if the power glitch started the blaze.

The blaze has destroyed 123 structures so far, 57 of which are homes, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection representative Jonathan Cox said at a press conference on Tuesday evening. He added that 90,000 buildings remain at risk.

READ: Hurricane-force winds are turning California's fires into a horror show

In the state’s south, another major fire broke out near the Getty Center, the arts campus that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, in Los Angeles in the early hours of Monday morning. Thousands of residents in the wealthy Brentwood neighborhood have been forced to evacuate, including celebrities like LeBron James and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Getty Fire had burned over 600 acres, and was only 5 percent contained by Monday evening, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. At least eight homes were destroyed, Mayor Eric Garcetti told a press conference.

Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas told reporters firefighters were overwhelmed. “They had to make some tough decisions on which houses they were able to protect," Terrazas said. “Many times it depends upon where the ember lands.”

Cover: A helicopter prepares to drop water onto a burning ridge top as a wildfire called the Getty fire burns on Mandeville Canyon Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

climate change
kincade fire
getty fire