Firefighters hope dying winds will enable them to bear down on a wildfire that exploded in the northern California wine country, prompting tens of thousands of evacuations while a second blaze killed at least three people.
The Glass fire raged through Napa and Sonoma counties on Monday, tripling in size to around 56.6 sq miles without any containment. Some two dozen homes burned, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The fire north of San Francisco was driving through brush that had not burned for a century, even though surrounding areas saw a series of blazes in recent years.
Dry winds that gave the flames a ferocious push appeared to have eased by Monday evening and firefighters were feeling “much more confident” said Ben Nicholls, a division chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.
“We don’t have those critical burning conditions that we were experiencing those last two nights,” he said.
The Glass fire is one of nearly 30 wildfires around California and the National Weather Service warned that hot, dry conditions with strong Santa Ana winds could remain a fire danger in southern California into Tuesday.
Numerous studies in recent years have linked bigger wildfires in America to climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas. Scientists say climate change has made California much drier, meaning trees and other plants are more flammable.
In a forested far northern part of the state, more than 1,200 people were evacuated in Shasta county for the Zogg fire. Three people have died in the fire, Shasta county Sheriff Eric Magrini said on Monday. He gave no details but urged people who receive evacuation orders: “Do not wait.”
Residences are widely scattered in the area, which was torched just two years ago by the deadly Carr fire, remembered for producing a huge tornado-like fire whirl.
Pacific Gas & Electric had cut power to more than 100,000 customers in advance of gusty winds and in areas with active fire zones. The utility’s equipment has caused previous disasters, including the 2018 Camp fire that killed 85 people and devastated the town of Paradise in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
By Monday night, the utility said it had restored electricity to essentially all of those customers. However, PG&E said about 24,000 remained without power in areas affected by two fires in Napa, Sonoma, Shasta and Tehama counties.
So far in this year’s historic fire season, more than 8,100 California wildfires have killed 29 people, scorched 5,780 square miles and destroyed more than 7,000 buildings.
The Glass fire began on Sunday as three fires that merged. Some 70,000 people are under evacuation orders, including the entire 5,000-plus population of Calistoga in Napa county.
Some people were injured and Sonoma county sheriff’s deputies had to rescue people who ignored evacuation orders, officials said. The fires came as the region approached the anniversary of the 2017 fires, including one that killed 22 people. Just a month ago, many residents were evacuated from the path of a lightning-sparked fire that became the fourth-largest in state history.
“Our firefighters have not had much of a break, and these residents have not had much of a break,” said Daniel Berlant, an assistant deputy director with Cal Fire.
Officials did not have an estimate of the number of homes destroyed or burned, but the blaze engulfed the Chateau Boswell Winery in St Helena and at least one five-star resort.