After a brief break in the winds and wildfire threat today, the National Weather Service is warning extreme Red Flag Warning fire weather will return tonight, with more fires, evacuations, and intentional power outages expected. According to the Los Angeles, California office of the National Weather Service, “strong, damaging winds, long duration of low humidity and dry vegetation will make this a very critical event.”
Firefighters are tackling fires in northern and southern California. The latest newsworthy fire is known as the Getty Fire, named after the namesake center located in the hills currently ablaze. The Getty fire, which broke out shortly after 1:30 am Monday along the 405 Freeway near the Getty Center, quickly spread into neighborhoods, burning nearly 700 acres, including many homes, forcing evacuations from the Los Angeles suburb. As of early this morning, officials reported that fire was 5% contained. In northern California, the Kincade fire continues to burn, and fire officials there said it could burn for “days or weeks” longer as seasonal winds blow through the state.
To help with the California conflagration nearby states are sending in support. Governor Michelle Grisham Tweeted, “New Mexico firefighters are on their way to California to assist with ongoing wildfire management and containment. Today and every day I am grateful to our first responders who rise to the occasion in an emergency – stay safe, and as always, thank you for your service.”
Strong Santa Ana winds blowing 50-70 mph are expected tonight in the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains; gusts could reach 80 mph at times. Arriving tonight, the winds are forecast to linger into Thursday night, creating a multi-day dangerous event. Santa Ana winds are a typical weather phenomena this time of year over California; the clockwise circulation around a nearby high-pressure system drives northeasterly winds over mountain peaks and through narrow passes and canyons, which increases the winds’ speed and dries the air out more.
California utilities are also shutting down power to millions of additional residents to reduce the fire risk. PG&E, one of California’s largest electricity providers, announced they were cutting service to another 596,000 customers today, pushing an additional 2 million people into darkness. Millions were without power over the weekend when PG&E proactively de-energized portions of their grid to prevent fires. However, not all lines were shut down. Over the weekend, PG&E said their lines created 2 new fires in the San Francisco area; they began in a section of town where PG&E had opted to keep the lights on. The sites were not designated as a high fire risk, the company said.
For some residents, it may take days or weeks for power to be restored.
Just weeks ago, on October 9-10, more than 2 million people were plunged into darkness when utilities cut power preventatively in high wind risk areas to reduce the threat of wildfires.
Last spring, fire officials concluded that equipment operated by PG&E caused the most destructive wildfire in California’s history last November: the Camp Fire of 2018. That fire killed 85 people, left several firefighters injured, and destroyed more than 150,000 acres across portions of northern California. Investigators determined that PG&E-controlled electrical transmission lines near the community of Pulga, located nearly 100 miles north of Sacramento, sparked the fire. Dry vegetation, strong winds and low humidity created a perfect fire weather scenario, creating a fast-moving conflagration that burned through the communities of Concow, Paradise and Magalia. Due to that fire, utilities have adopted a controversial policy of killing portions of the grid to prevent future tragedies from occurring.