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California Brush Fire At U.S. Marine Bases Forces Christmas Eve Evacuations

LOS ANGELES, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Wind-driven flames racing through miles of dry brush on a U.S. Marine Corps base in Southern California prompted the evacuation of more than 7,000 residents on Thursday from neighborhoods at the edge of the sprawling installation, authorities said.

The so-called Creek Fire erupted Wednesday night along a roadside on the eastern flank of Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, and charred some 3,000 acres by noon on Thursday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) reported.

No property damage or injuries were reported, but the blaze prompted mandatory evacuations early Thursday of base housing facilities, as well as homes in the adjacent civilian community of Fallbrook, displacing 7,000 people there, CalFire Captain Thomas Shoots said.

As of midday, firefighters had yet to establish firm control lines around the blaze, with containment at zero, although fierce Santa Ana winds that initially fanned the flames through drought-parched grass and brush had subsided by early afternoon,Shoots said.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation.

The incident capped the heaviest wildfire season on record in California in terms of total acreage burned, with more than 4million acres and over 10,000 homes and other structures up inflames. Thirty-three lives were lost.

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Suisun City fire: Wildfire destroys homes and forces evacuations in northern California

Firefighters responded immediately to a call received at 3:26 p.m. local time Wednesday, according to Suisun City Fire Chief Justin Vincent.

When the fire department arrived, there were people trying to evacuate as many animals as possible, Vincent said. The department told the people if they left, firefighters would run back into the flames and try to release the animals. Foxes and coyotes were released along with other animals, but some of the birds were lost — including some flightless owls.

There were approximately 200 firefighters on scene Wednesday.

There have been no injuries to the public or firefighters at this time, Vincent said.

Heavy winds and a temperature of over 100 degrees have accompanied the fire, which spread from the wildlife center to homes in Suisan City.

At least seven homes have been lost, about 15 are directly threatened and more than 100 are indirectly threatened, Vincent said Wednesday. Half of the firefighters are battling the fire and half are trying to save structures.

The fire was still not under control Wednesday night.

Cal Fire is handling air operations with helicopters and planes doing retardant and water drops across the city. There are about 200 firefighters on scene with 24 engines, two aircraft, Cal Fire hand crews and bulldozers. Solano County Fire investigation unit and the Suisun City Fire Marshal are trying to determine the cause and origin of the fire.

The Salvation Army Kroc Center, Red Cross, VFW and other local groups are helping those who lost their homes. Suisun City is about 4.1 square miles with 30,000 residents.

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California wildfires prompt more evacuations as PG&E shuts off power to almost 1 million customers

Farther north, at least five evacuation centers opened across Sonoma County as strong winds fan the flames of the Kincade Fire.

Winds and fire activity had picked up by Sunday morning, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said. More than 97,000 people have been ordered to evacuate.

“You need to leave now while you still can,” the sheriff said.

PG&E shuts off power

In an attempt to avoid any more catastrophic wildfires, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) began shutting down the power of about 940,000 customers Saturday night, citing a historic wind event in northern and central parts of the state.

The number of actual people without power will be higher, since electric customers include houses and businesses.

The company had announced the shutoff earlier this week, citing their forecasts of dangerous wind conditions.

Customers in portions of 38 counties in the Northern and Southern Sierra Foothills, the North Bay and Mendocino, the Bay Area, the Central Coast and the Central Valley, will be left in the dark, the company said.

Paradise, which was devastated by last year’s deadly Camp Fire, is also among the areas to be left in the dark.

“This (public safety power shutoff) action is based on forecasts of historic dry, hot and windy weather that poses a significant risk for damage and sparks on the electric system and rapid wildfire spread,” PG&E said in a statement.
In San Jose, City Manager Kip Harkness told reporters the city has a plan in place for the outage, which could affect about 90,000 in the area. Officials said the city has activated a “power vulnerability plan” that has been months in the works.

Over the last weeks, the PG&E has been enacting preventative shutoffs all over northern and central California, but this could be the largest.

Earlier this year, the company warned it could proactively cut power more often during risky weather conditions as a means of preventing wildfires caused by high winds downing live power equipment. The preventive power outages may continue for a decade, the utility’s chief executive said in a statement this month.

This all comes after the company came under fire and agreed to pay billions for its role in the 2018 Camp Fire — California’s deadliest and most destructive blaze.

The company previously said it’s “probable” that its equipment started the fire and an investigation by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection found the company responsible for the fire.

Two fires scorch thousands of acres

The Kincade Fire had scorched more than 29,955 acres by late Saturday and was only 10% contained, Cal Fire Chief Jonathan Cox said.

About 77 structures have been destroyed –31 of which were residential — and 14 have been damaged, Cox said.

“Fire’s not something you can fight,” Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said. “You cannot fight this, please evacuate.”

In the southern part of the state, the Tick Fire was 55% contained and had burned through about 4,615 acres, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.
The department said it was preparing for more wind Sunday and Monday.

CNN’s Hollie Silverman and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.

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