Weather & Natural Disasters

New wildfire threatens thousands in LA as hurricane-force winds spread California blazes

Key Points
  • A new wildfire breaks out in Los Angeles and blazes fanned by high wind spread elsewhere in California, a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency.
  • Planned utility shutoffs left millions without power.
  • The California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection says 162,693 acres burned, 406 structures were damaged or destroyed, and three people have died .
  • The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, the largest of the fires burning in the state, has spread to more than 66,000 acres.
Firefighters battle the Kincade Fire as a barn burns on October 27, 2019 in Santa Rosa, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

A new wildfire broke out in Los Angeles on Monday and blazes fanned by high wind spread elsewhere in California, a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency.

Planned utility shutoffs left millions without power. Shares of Pacific Gas and Electric fell more than 15% on Monday, hitting a new 52-week low of $3.55 per share.

The California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection, or CalFire, reported Monday that at least 162,693 acres burned, 406 structures were damaged or destroyed and three people have died in the fires burning across California.

Nine active fires were burning throughout the state, according to CalFire officials Monday morning. The most recent, the Getty Fire in Los Angeles, broke out Monday morning, covering more than 500 acres. The Los Angeles Fire Department has ordered mandatory evacuations for areas that include 10,000 residential and commercial structures.

Among the evacuees was Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, who tweeted that he and his family had spent a "Crazy night" trying to find shelter.

A firefighting helicopter flies over the Getty Fire as it burns in the hills west of the 405 freeway in the hills of West Los Angeles, October 28, 2019.
Gene Blevins | Reuters

The J. Paul Getty Museum tweeted around 2 p.m. EST Monday that the Getty Center remains safe as the Los Angeles Fire Department continues to employ air and ground support.

The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, the largest of the fires burning in the state, spread to more than 66,000 acres Monday, doubling its size in 24 hours. Only 5% of the fire has been contained. Early Sunday, the fire had spread to 30,000 acres, with 10% considered contained.

Among the properties that were destroyed were the picturesque Soda Rock Winery near Healdsburg, dating to 1869, and the Field Stone winery near Windsor, according to Wine Spectator magazine.

High winds are to blame for the continued growth of the Kincade Fire. The National Weather Service warned that an extreme and potentially historic offshore wind event was expected in the mountain regions of Northern and Central California through Monday morning. Wind speeds reached Category 1 hurricane-level speeds, with gusts that topped 100 mph, according to NBC News.

A red flag warning was in effect, with gusts of 40 to 50 mph still a possibility, according to a Kincade fire incident update released Sunday night. About 180,000 people have been ordered to evacuate in that area.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter that it was the largest evacuation that "any of us at the Sheriff's Office can remember."

"We are deploying every resource available, and are coordinating with numerous agencies as we continue to respond to these fires," Newsom said in a statement. "It is critical that people in evacuation zones heed the warnings from officials and first responders, and have the local and state resources they need as we fight these fires."

For the Kincade Fire alone, 352 engines, 28 water tenders, 10 helicopters, 76 hand crews, 51 bulldozers, and 3,441 total personnel have been assigned to contain the fire, according to the incident update.

A firefighter pulls a hose to spray water on a burning tree as he battles the Kincade Fire on October 27, 2019 in Windsor, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Pacific Gas and Electric said it shut off power for 960,000 customers in 38 counties since Saturday for safety reasons. PG&E could not give an exact number of how many people this affected, but if you multiply the number of customers impacted by 2.5, the average number of people living in an American household, as many as 2.4 million people could be without electricity. This could be the state's largest planned blackout in history.

As of Sunday night, power was restored to about 30,000 customers. PG&E also began safety patrols and inspections before sundown on Sunday in several counties that have received the "all clear," which continued Monday morning.

Hundreds of miles south of the Kincade Fire, in Los Angeles County, the Tick Fire has spread across 4,615 acres, 70% of which was contained as of Sunday evening, according to the incident update. The update reported 10,000 threatened residences. The Tick Fire, which started on Thursday, forced about 50,000 people to evacuate. As of Sunday evening, all evacuation orders had been lifted. A Red Flag warning remains in effect through Monday afternoon and 509 firefighters remain on the scene with additional resources.

On Friday, PG&E shares sank 30%, to below $5 a share, and that could hamper the company's attempt to make its way out of bankruptcy protection. The stock decline followed reporting that PG&E's transmission lines were active in the area where the Sonoma County fire sparked.

PG&E's equipment has sparked 19 major fires in 2017 and 2018, and the company was blamed for last year's Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 86 people.

PG&E said that customers can now expect rolling power outages for another 10 years as it upgrades its electrical systems in response to more extreme weather conditions in California.

—CNBC's Emma Newburger contributed to this report.

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Here's how Californians are reacting to the wildfires and power outages
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Key Points
  • PG&E's planned power shutoffs would leave as many as 2.7 million people without electricity, in what could be the state's largest planned blackout in history.  
  • Los Angeles County and Sonoma County have been under a state of emergency since Friday.
  • The Kincade Fire that started on Wednesday night in Sonoma County had spread to 30,000 acres and was 10% contained as of Sunday morning. About 180,000 people have been ordered to evacuate. 
  • Widespread dry, hot and windy weather is expected to affect the utility's service Saturday evening through Monday.