Millions face power cuts as California fires spread



Californian officials warned Saturday that “extreme” wind conditions were set to fan wildfires across the north of the US state as residents were ordered to evacuate and millions faced power cuts.

Nearly 90,000 people were ordered to flee their homes in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, a number that rose over the course of the day as the Kincade Fire spread after breaking out on Wednesday.

The blaze, which is burning in remote steep terrain, threatens tens of thousands of structures and had already forced the evacuation of the small community of Geyserville and nearby vineyard operations.

By Saturday evening, a total of 77 structures, among them 31 residential buildings, had been destroyed by the blaze, as more than 2,800 personnel were called to the scene, according to Jonathan Cox, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“This is definitely an event that we’re calling historic and extreme,” David King, a meteorologist for the US National Weather Service, told The Los Angeles Times.

“What’s making this event really substantial… is the amount of time that these winds are going to remain.”

A “strong and potentially historic offshore wind event” was forecast to begin Saturday evening in the San Francisco Bay area, according to the National Weather Service.

The wind was expected to increase overnight and peak Sunday morning, reaching speeds of 60-80 miles per hour (95-130 kilometers per hour), Ryan Walburn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service San Francisco Bay area, told reporters at a press conference.

Those winds, which have caused a red flag warning indicating a high-risk level, will last into early Monday, meteorologists said.

California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., said it expected to cut off power to 940,000 customers — a precautionary shutdown that local media reported would affect about two million people.

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