California is burning.
The Kincade Fire, which broke out in Sonoma County on October 23, has burned more than 66,000 acres — a chunk of land the size of Sacramento, the state's capital city.
The blaze has forced nearly 200,000 people to flee as strong Diablo winds and dry conditions enabled it to grow rapidly. More than 4,000 firefighting personnel are battling the flames, but the fire is still just 5% contained.
On Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency.
PG&E, the state's largest utility company, cut power to about 965,000 customers to reduce the risk that sparking wires could ignite more fires. Company officials told state regulators last week that the Kincade Fire may have been caused by a broken jumper cable on one of the company's transmission towers in Geyserville.
Here's what the situation looks like on the ground.
Powerful winds are fanning the Kincade Fire. Evacuees have fled a large area around Sonoma County, from Mercuryville to Bodega Bay.
The Kincade Fire is by far the biggest blaze in California right now, but more than a dozen others are burning, too. In southern California, the Tick Fire in Santa Clarita Valley has burned 4,600 acres and is now 70% contained.
Meanwhile, the Getty Fire broke out Monday morning in West Los Angeles and has already prompted thousands to evacuate.
Wildfires are a natural part of California's yearly weather cycle, but they're getting worse. Nine of the 10 biggest fires in the state's history have occurred since 2003.
Last year's Camp Fire was especially devastating — it killed 86 people and burned 18,800 structures in November.
Sparking PG&E wires were responsible for that blaze, the deadliest in California history. The company reached an $11 billion settlement with victims last month, amid bankruptcy proceedings.
PG&E's latest power cuts — the third round this month — are the company's largest-ever intentional outage, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Many customers will likely remain without electricity until Wednesday.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle
On Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. At a press conference, Newsom blamed PG&E for years of greed and mismanagement. "We should not have to be here," he said.
So far, the Kincade fire has destroyed at least 96 buildings and damaged another 16.
More than 4,000 firefighting personnel have been battling that fire.
Strong winds makes the fires unpredictable and hard to control. In northern California, gusts of up to 102 mph were recorded over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
Source: National Weather Service
Jonathan Cox, division chief of California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), told the Los Angeles Times that the fires could change direction at any moment. Residents outside evacuation zones should still be ready to go, he said.
Source: Los Angeles Times
In one case on Sunday, gusts even carried an ember from a small fire in the Bay Area about a mile, across the water of the Carquinez Strait in Vallejo.
Source: The New York Times
In a press conference, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned residents to heed evacuation orders: "The only thing you cannot replace is you and your family," he said.
Throughout California, helicopters are dropping water on the various blazes, while air tankers release fire-retardant chemicals to slows or stops the flames' spread.
California also relies on more prisoners to fight fires than any other state. Inmate firefighters are paid $2 per day, and another $1 per hour when fighting active fires.
Source: The New York Times
Individual fires can't be directly attributed to climate change, but warm, dry conditions increase their likelihood.
In the western US, fire season's length has increased by 78 days over the last 50 years.
Large wildfires in the US burn more than twice the area they did in 1970. In California specifically, the portion of land that burns from wildfires every year has increased more than five-fold since 1972.
Winds in California were expected to weaken on Monday, which could help firefighters make headway. But they may pick up again starting midday Tuesday.
California's 10-day forecast does not include any rain.
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