Dozens of homes and buildings have been destroyed, thousands of people evacuated and more than 10,000 hectares of land razed as wind-driven wildfires roar across a swathe of northern California wine country.
More than 2000 Sonoma County residents, including many in the town of Geyserville, north of San Francisco, fled as a dozen homes were destroyed on Friday (Australian time).
The Kincade fire was the most severe of several blazes raging across California as utility companies cut electricity to nearly 200,000 homes and businesses across the US state to try to reduce wildfire risks from high winds.
The Sonoma County blaze erupted late on Wednesday night and by Thursday morning had scorched about 4000 hectares, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) reported, as firefighters struggled to contain the spreading flames.
By Friday afternoon (AEDT), the Kincade Fire north-east of Geyserville had reached 6474 hectares and was 5 per cent contained, Cal Fire said.
About the same time, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company posted on Twitter that it had restored power to at least 84 per cent of customers affected by a “Public Safety Power Shutoff” on October 23-24.
Firefighters were continuing to fight the blaze and work to contain its spread, as Cal Fire responded to more roadside spot fires and outbreaks south of Pescadero (30 hectares burnt) and Canyon Country in Los Angeles (1598 hectares burnt).
#KincadeFire that started at 9:24 last night has grown to 10,000 acres overnight North East of Gyserville, Ca. Incident Management Team 6 has been activated. CAL FIRE SLO has deployed two Battalion Chiefs that are part of IMT-6. CAL FIRE SLO remains fully staffed and prepared. pic.twitter.com/OPm8xA06Yd
— CAL FIRE SLO (@CALFIRE_SLO) October 24, 2019
Ground crews battled the blaze at close range with hand tools and bulldozers, assisted by water-dropping helicopters and aerial tankers dropping fire-retardant slurry.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office issued an evacuation order for Geyserville, which has 900 residents.
A Reuters photographer saw about a dozen homes in flames in the town on Thursday local time.
By midday on Thursday, mandatory evacuation notices had been expanded to cover roughly 2000 people overall, the sheriff’s office said.
Vision has emerged of a huge fire wall threatening homes in the Tick fire area in Los Angeles, with many residents leaving it to the last minute to retrieve valuable possessions.
— News Breaking LIVE (@NewsBreaking) October 25, 2019
Meanwhile, there was another evacuation warning for the northern end of the larger wine country town of Healdsburg, a short distance to the south. Residents were told to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice.
Both towns, about 120 kilometres north of San Francisco, are hubs of upscale restaurants, wine-tasting rooms, inns, and shops surrounded by rolling hills dotted by vineyards.
The 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season ever recorded in California, with 8527 fires burning an area of 766,000 hectares of land.
Among those killed were six firefighters and 97 residents.