California Firefighters Fight Blazes in North, South; New Fire Ignites Outside San Diego


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Firefighters in California are simultaneously fighting blazes in both the north and south of the state, as a new wildfire broke out Friday.

Firefighters responded to the blaze near the town of Ramona, about 48 kilometers northeast of downtown San Diego.

A separate fire north of Los Angeles has caused the evacuation of more than 40,000 residents.

The so-called Tick Fire, which began Thursday afternoon just outside the city of Santa Clarita, had consumed about 17 square kilometers. Firefighters say more than 15,000 structures are threatened by the fire.

Officials said Friday the Los Angeles Unified School District has closed all of its schools in the San Fernando Valley.

Another fire is burning in northern Sonoma County, affecting the state's wine country. That fire, known as the Kincade Fire, has burned at least 49 buildings and 65 square kilometers.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in both Sonoma and Los Angeles counties Friday.

Also Friday, the stock price for California's biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), fell sharply after the company said its electrical equipment may have caused the Kincade Fire, despite pre-emptive power outages to try to avoid a fire.

PG&E sent an "electric safety incident" report Thursday to the California Public Utilities Commission saying that one of its power lines malfunctioned at about the time and location as the origin of the Kincade Fire.

The company said that while it shut off power to much of the region, it did not de-energize the transmission line that malfunctioned.

PG&E is in bankruptcy because of liability from recent major wildfires, including one last year that killed 85 people in the northern California town of Paradise.

The company has shut down power to thousands of consumers in an effort to contain the spread of the fires.

The utility says power was restored to most people by Thursday evening, however it is warning of another round of power outages starting Saturday when winds are forecast to pick up strength again. It says that power shutdown could affect 2 million people.

Winds at speeds up to about 80 kilometers per hour are fanning the wildfires in California.