Wildfires Force State of Emergency in California


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California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide state of emergency because of wildfires and power cuts to millions to stop more fires from breaking out.

"We are deploying every resource available...it is critical that people in evacuation zones heed the warnings from officials and first responders," Newsom said in his declaration.

Two-hundred thousand people have been forces to flee their homes in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco. The country sheriff's office calls it the largest such evacuation anyone can remember.

The Kincade fire, named for a local road where the flames are believed to have started, has already burned more than 12,000 hectares and destroyed a number of buildings, including historic structures in the area, whose vineyards make it popular with tourists.

Officials said as of Sunday, only 10% of the Kincade fire was contained. Hot dry desert winds blowing at record-breaking speed are making it almost impossible for firefighters to bring the flames under control.

In Southern California, a wildfire in Santa Clarita near Los Angeles is said to be about 65% contained, but not before it destroyed more than a dozen buildings.

The California utility company Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to nearly 1 million homes and businesses across Northern California, some with little notice.

Businesses are angry that the power cuts have cost them tens of thousands of dollars and residents bitterly complain about the inconvenience of going all weekend without lights.

But PG&E says it doesn't want electricity surging through power lines that are blown down or knocked over by fallen trees sparking even more fires.

California authorities blame PG&E lines for setting last year's wildfires that killed 85 people and destroyed entire towns. The utility, facing billions of dollars in lawsuits, was forced to declare bankruptcy earlier this year.

Governor Newsom says the state will spend $75 million to help residents and businesses deal with the power cuts.