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The Latest: 2 firefighters burned in California blaze

Posted at 9:41 PM, Oct 27, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on the wildfires in Northern California (all times local):

7:45 p.m.

California authorities say two firefighters were injured Sunday battling a wildfire that has been raging since Wednesday.

Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox said Sunday one firefighter sustained serious burn injuries and was airlifted to UC Davis Medical Center. The other firefighter who was burned had minor injuries.

Nearly 200,000 people in Northern California are under evacuation orders as crews grapple with a wildfire in Sonoma County.

Officials say the wildfire has burned 85 square miles (220 square kilometers), destroyed 94 structures and was threatening 80,000 buildings.

7:40 p.m.

Fire crews are battling dozens of wind-driven wildfires across California, but the biggest problem is burning north of San Francisco across 85 square miles (220 square kilometers) and is just 5% contained.

Forty-three of California's 58 counties are under a red-flag watch for high fire danger.

Mike Bradley, North Region chief of California's firefighting agency, says the pre-positioning of equipment around the state has helped firefighters keep most of the fires relatively small. He says the number of fires is slightly below average for this time of year.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said although such raging fires are common at the height of October's fire season, the anxiety is worsened this year amid pre-emptive power outages by utilities trying to keep their equipment from sparking blazes.


7:05 p.m.

California Fire officials say a rapidly moving fire in Northern California wine country has grown to 85 square miles (220 square kilometers) and destroyed 94 buildings.

Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox called the conditions throughout California "a tinderbox" Sunday and asked people to continue being vigilant in helping to prevent fires from breaking out.

Nearly 200,000 people have been ordered to evacuate because of wildfires, most of them because of the blaze in Sonoma County.


6:40 p.m.

Officials with California's largest utility say they have notified 500,000 customers — or more than 1 million people — that they are likely to have their power turned off for the third time in a week as a fire prevention effort.

Pacific Gas & Electric officials say they are expecting strong winds to whip up again Tuesday.

PG&E Emergency Preparedness and Response Director Mark Quinlan said Sunday night that some of those people might not have their power restored from the current outage before the next major shutdown. That means they could be without power for five days or longer.

The utility says nearly 2.7 million people lost electricity by Sunday.


5:45 p.m.

A Northern California fire has grown to burn over 78 square miles as strong winds drive blazes and spur power shutoffs to prevent damage to power lines.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Sunday that the fire spread and containment had slipped from 10%. Nearly 200,000 people have been ordered to evacuate.

Meanwhile, Pacific Gas & Electric said power is out to 965,000 customers and another 100,000 have lost power because of strong winds, bringing the number of people without electricity to nearly 2.7 million people.

Newsom had declared a statewide emergency and said "every resource available" was being deployed to fight the fire.


5:15 p.m.

Authorities say a woman has died and a man was injured by a tree that fell in high winds at a park in central California.

Police say the victims were possibly homeless and camping in a remote area of Pogonip Park in Santa Cruz when the tree fell Sunday morning.

Strong winds are driving Northern California fires and spurring power cutoffs, with nearly 200,000 people ordered to evacuate.

Sgt. Mark Eveleth said officers hiked off a main trail to reach the victims. The woman in her mid-50's was declared dead at the scene. The man sustained injuries to his hip and chest.

Eveleth said an ambulance drove the man to a trauma center because high winds kept a helicopter from airlifting him.

The Santa Cruz County coroner's office was trying to identify the woman.

4:05 p.m.

Authorities say several small fires in a suburb east of San Francisco have destroyed a Lafayette Tennis Club building, the roof of a home and two outbuildings.

Contra Costa County Fire Capt. George Laing said evacuation orders were issued Sunday afternoon for an unknown number of residents in a neighborhood close to State Route 24 due to the potential for flying embers to spark a new fire.

Laing said several downed power lines were spotted in the area of the fire.

Powerful winds are driving multiple fires across Northern California and forcing power shut-offs intended to prevent gusts from damaging power lines that can spark blazes.

2:50 p.m.

The San Francisco Bay Area city of Vallejo has declared a water emergency as authorities fight two nearby fires and its pumping station is left unable to treat water because of a pre-emptive power shut-off.

The Vallejo Times Herald reports that the emergency declared Sunday means outdoor water use is prohibited and residents are asked to reduce indoor use such as bathing and toilet flushing.

Joanna Altman, assistant to the Vallejo city manager, says the pre-emptive blackout ordered by Pacific Gas & Electric to try to prevent wildfires means the city doesn't have access to well water.

She says before the blackout, water use rose as people rushed to store water, making the water problem worse.


This story has been corrected to show the newspaper name is the Vallejo Times Herald.


2:30 p.m.

Strong winds have knocked down numerous trees and power lines across Oakland, taking out electricity to nearly 2,000 residents who were otherwise not in areas affected by PG&E's planned power outages.

Oakland Fire Department spokesman Michael Hunt said about 1,800 residents lost power Sunday as winds kicked up to 50 mph. He said dispatchers received about 20 calls about fallen trees and another 35 reports of downed power lines.

The utility intentionally turned off power to more than 2.3 million people on Saturday in an effort to prevent its equipment from sparking deadly wildfires.


1:55 p.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric says it is monitoring a third major wind event expected later this week in Northern California that could lead to widespread power shut-offs.

The company says in a news release Sunday that the power shut-off would affect people in 32 counties starting Tuesday morning through midday Wednesday.

The utility already has turned off power to more than 2.3 million people in an effort to prevent its equipment from sparking deadly wildfires.

Those outages are expected to last through Monday morning.

If the winds hold and the utility cuts power, it would be the third major power shut-off in a week.


1:20 p.m.

Nine people have been injured after heavy winds toppled a tall tree in a San Francisco Bay Area city.

Martinez Police Sgt. Steve Gaul said the 30-foot (9-meter) tree snapped at its base, injuring nine people Sunday morning at a farmers' market in the city's downtown.

Gaul said the youngest was a toddler and the oldest was 71. Six of the nine were taken to a hospital with injuries that are not life-threatening.

Crews are battling fires throughout Northern California and nearly 200,000 people were ordered evacuated from their homes. Millions are without power after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. cut off electricity to prevent its equipment from sparking fires.

Historic winds are forecast through Monday morning.


1 p.m.

Two grass fires burning in the San Francisco Bay Area have shut down a bridge between the cities of Vallejo and Crockett, but it's not known if the fires are related.

Cal Fire Division Chief Jim Crawford said Sunday it's possible an ember from one fire sparked the other, but they won't know until an investigation is complete.

About 200 people at the California State University Maritime Academy campus were evacuated due to the fire in Vallejo.

The fires have shut down a 6-mile (10-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 80, including the Carquinez Bridge in Vallejo.

California is on high alert for fire danger as strong winds whip the state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency with nearly 200,000 people ordered to flee their homes.


12:55 p.m.

Officials have closed a stretch of Interstate 80 in downtown Sacramento as smoke obstructed drivers along the busy stretch.

Sacramento Fire Department Capt. Keith Wade says a grass fire in the area was rapidly spreading when crews arrived Sunday afternoon.

He says officials opted to close a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) stretch of the interstate as they try to quickly extinguish the fire. Wade says the initial call came in as a grass fire that was threatening homes, but it spread to a grassy median in intense wind.

Wade says firefighters are going to work to get the freeway open "as soon as they can."


11:50 a.m.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide emergency as wildfires and extreme weather conditions forced almost 200,000 people from their homes.

He said in a statement Sunday that officials are deploying "every resource available" to respond to the wildfires, including a large blaze in Northern California's wine country driven by powerful winds.

Smoke from a second wildfire in the San Francisco Bay Area briefly halted traffic on a bridge. The flames came dangerously close to homes in Vallejo.

In the south, a wildfire in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles has destroyed 18 structures, threatened homes and critical infrastructure.


9:45 a.m.

A small wildfire broke out Sunday morning near Vallejo (vuh-LAY'-ho) with flames coming dangerously close to homes and forcing a college to evacuate at the northeast end of San Francisco Bay.

A live broadcast on KGO-TV shows the fire on both sides of Interstate 80 and homeowners using hoses on a hillside to try and fight it.

The fire forced the freeway to close and the California State University Maritime Academy to issue an evacuation order.

The wildfire halted traffic at the Carquinez Bridge toll booth as the freeway became shrouded in thick smoke.

Vallejo is 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) south of Geyserville where a massive wildfire forced 180,000 people to flee their communities.


8:15 a.m.

Authorities say 180,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes as powerful winds threaten to spread a wildfire in Northern California's wine country.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office tweeted Sunday that it's the largest evacuation that any member of the force can remember.

The evacuation order was significantly expanded overnight to portions of Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 that was hit hard two years ago by a wildfire that destroyed thousands of homes and killed 22 people.

Fire officials say they are concerned the winds will blow embers and cause the fire to jump a major highway and spread to population centers.


7 a.m.

Evacuation orders have expanded to parts of Santa Rosa as firefighters struggle to beat back a wind-driven wildfire that started in Northern California's wine country four days ago.

Authorities issued the order early Sunday as historic winds fueled the fire overnight and prompted the state's largest utility company to shut power to 2.3 million people to prevent additional wildfires.

Santa Rosa was hit hard by a wildfire that destroyed thousands of homes and killed 22 people two years ago. The evacuation order affects the northwestern section of the city.

California fire officials say the current wildfire, dubbed the Kincade Fire, that began Wednesday night has burned at least 40 square miles and is only 11% contained.

The National Weather Service says wind gusts topped 90 mph Sunday morning in Healdsburg Hills North, a popular tourist attraction in California's wine country.