California wildfires: Millions face weekend blackout | News | DW | 26.10.2019
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California wildfires: Millions face weekend blackout

Authorities are preparing to cut power amid concerns that high-voltage power lines could cause additional blazes. Thousands of people have been evacuated as the wildfires continue to rage.

Up to 2.1 million people in the US state of California could lose power as wildfires continue to scorch the countryside near Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Dozens of homes have already been destroyed and thousands of residents displaced by the intense smoke and flames.

California's Pacific Gas and Electric Co has already cut power to hundreds of thousands of homes in the state as a preventative measure, and warned that millions more could face a blackout over the weekend.

The company has acknowledged that an earlier wildfire may have been caused by a high-voltage transmission line.

Thousands evacuated

Tens of thousands of people near Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, fled their homes on Friday as firefighters struggle to control fires that are spread over 4,000 acres (1,618 hectares). Only 10% of the fires had been contained by the evening.

Authorities ordered mass evacuations in the area after a brush fire, which was sparked on Wednesday, turned into an inferno due to dry winds.

Authorities shut down all nearby schools on Friday as well as a major highway after the blaze continued to spread.

Read more: California wine country fires expand, trigger blackouts

Watch video 02:08

California wildfires rage near LA and in wine country

Situation remains critical

The National Weather Service warned that although wind speeds – gusting up to 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour – were set to subside temporarily, they were expected to increase again on Sunday and Monday in the southern part of the state.

"It looks like another Santa Ana is coming," meteorologist Eric Boldt told AFP news agency, in reference to the strong gusts that hit California each fall. "Right now, we're looking at moderate strength winds (Sunday and Monday)."

Read more: California signs new law fighting Uber labor practices

Aerial view of palms and brush burning at Real Del Mar residential outskirts Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico

Fires have also broken out over the border in Mexico's Baja California state

The state remains "critically dry" with little humidity, increasing the chance of large and dangerous fires, he added.

Several wildfires are also raging in northern California – the most serious being the "Kincade Fire" in the Sonoma wine region.

This year, 276 wildfires have broken out across California. The most destructive year on record was 2018, when 8,500 wildfires scorched through the state, killing around 100 people.

Intense fires over the border in Mexico's Baja California state have killed at least three people and destroyed over 150 homes, officials said.

shs/mm  (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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