Firefighters in northern California are warily watching for “violent” winds expected to return to the Napa-Sonoma area, amid continuing extreme heat and low humidity.
Red flag warnings of extreme fire danger were to continue into Friday evening.
Officials said they were requesting more fire crews to join 2,000 firefighters battling the Glass fire, which has charred 80 sq miles with almost no containment.
The utility company Pacific Gas & Electric also cut power to another 3,100 customers in Napa county at the request of firefighters, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.
Hot weather and the potential for fire damage could stress power supplies as people switch on their air conditioners. To avoid shortages, the California Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s power grid, issued a statewide Flex Alert for 3pm to 10pm Thursday. It urged customers to avoid using large appliances during that time and to keep the thermostat at 78F (25.6C) or above.
A mid-August heat wave strained the grid to the point where Cal ISO ordered utilities to implement brief rolling blackouts for the first time since 2001.
About 150 miles to the north of wine country, the Zogg fire, which also erupted during Sunday’s high winds and grew quickly, has killed four people, the Shasta county sheriff, Eric Magrini, said.
A man evacuated with severe burns Sunday died at a hospital of his injuries Tuesday, Magrini said. Three others died Sunday.
The deadly blaze that spread to neighboring Tehama county has burned 86 sq miles and destroyed 146 buildings, about half of them homes. It was 9% contained.
The Glass and Zogg fires are among nearly 30 wildfires burning in California. Fire-related deaths in California this year total 30. Numerous studies in recent years have linked bigger wildfires in America to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas, especially because climate change has made California much drier. A drier California means plants are more flammable.
Firefighters say the intense blazes are also becoming harder to fight. On Wednesday, officials said wind-whipped flames led two firefighters to deploy the emergency fire shelters they carry in case of imminent danger from flames
The firefighters were assigned to the Glass fire on Sunday when gusty off-shore winds fanned the fire, forcing them to deploy the shelters after flames overwhelmed them. The firefighters covered themselves on the ground with the space blanket-looking devices. They were not injured, the California department of forestry and fire protection said.
It’s the third time fire crews have had to deploy their fire shelters this month – a last-resort effort to save their lives that was once uncommon. On 8 September, 14 firefighters deployed emergency shelters as flames overtook them and destroyed the fire station they were defending in the Los Padres national forest. Three firefighters were hospitalized and later released. A day later, a crew fighting a deadly blaze in Butte county was overrun by flames when winds shifted; its members escaped with only minor injuries after deploying emergency shelters.