Hurricane-force winds of over 100mph whipped through Northern California on Sunday, fueling wildfires that forced nearly 200,000 residents from their homes as flames destroyed buildings and threatened lives.
Some 180,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes and flee the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County. On Sunday, roads around Santa Rosa were jammed with cars and trucks as people grabbed what they could and fled before the fire engulfed their homes.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a state of emergency Sunday night, saying the state is “deploying every resource available as we continue to respond to these fires and unprecedented high winds.” The fire continued to rage Monday morning.
By Sunday evening, the blaze had burned more than 54,000 acres and was only 5 percent contained. High winds are expected to continue into Monday.
Many of those fleeing their homes made the same journey two years ago, when deadly wildfires in Sonoma and Napa killed 44 people.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said at a press conference Sunday evening that the fire had destroyed 94 structures and damaged 17, and officials say 80,000 structures are threatened.
Two firefighters were injured Sunday, one of whom had to be airlifted to the UC Davis Medical Center after sustaining serious burn injuries. The other suffered minor burn injuries.
Of the state’s 58 counties, 43 were under red-flag warnings for high fire danger Sunday.
Over the weekend, more than 2.4 million people lost power as California's largest utility company, PG&E, shut off electricity in a bid to to prevent damaged cables from triggering more fires.
The company has notified more than 1.2 million people that they may have their power cut for what could be the third time in a week, and the fourth time this month.
Several other spot fires broke out across the state over the weekend.
In San Francisco, two grass fires briefly halted traffic on an interstate bridge as the flames came dangerously close to homes in Vallejo.
Another grass fire closed a stretch of interstate that cut through the state capital as smoke obstructed drivers.
In the south, a wildfire in the Santa Clarita area near Los Angeles destroyed 18 structures. As of Sunday, the Tick Fire was 70 percent contained.
The National Weather Service has predicted that strong gusts will continue to hit California until Monday night. While they will dissipate for a while, forecasters said they expect winds to pick up again on Tuesday and last until Wednesday.
Cover: Firefighters battle a wildfire called the Kincade Fire on Chalk Hill Road in Healdsburg, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)