California governor declares statewide emergency as Kincade Fire grows to 50,000 acres

Updated 9:46 PM EDT, Sun October 27, 2019
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(CNN) —  

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Sunday as wind-whipped wildfires in the north and south of the state gobbled up land, destroyed homes and forced almost 200,000 people to flee.

In Northern California’s wine country outside San Francisco, the Kincade Fire has grown to about 50,000 acres and is 10% contained, Newsom said Sunday. That’s up from 30,000 acres reported earlier in the day. The governor estimated 180,000 people evacuated because of the fire, which CalFire says destroyed 79 structures.

The Tick Fire, burning near Santa Clarita in the southern part of the state, destroyed at least 22 structures and threatened 10,000 more, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said Sunday.

Meanwhile, Californians outside the fire zones find themselves in the dark – literally.

About 1 million Pacific Gas and Electric customers lost power – 965,000 because of the Public Safety Power Shutoff, and an additional 100,000 for other reasons, said Mark Quinlan, PG&E incident commander.

Californians should not expect immediate relief. Strong winds will keep blowing into Monday and a second batch of Santa Ana winds may hit Southern California in the middle of the week, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.

Winds hit the 70-80 mph range on Sunday, the National Weather Service said. Newsom’s proclamation mentioned a “historic wind event” and said “fire weather conditions are unprecedented due to the scale, scope, wind speed and dry fuel conditions.”

“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.”

Flames consume the Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg, California.
PHOTO: Noah Berger/AP
Flames consume the Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg, California.

Kincade Fire spreading fast

The rapid growth of the Kincade Fire alarmed fire officials and residents like Christopher Bingham. He said his family prepared to evacuate, but he was still surprised to see a wall of fire approaching his house in Geyserville a few days ago.

“It was 5:30 a.m. when I looked out and saw flames within 400 yards of my house,” he told CNN affiliate WPIX. “It was time to get out.”

That fire now threatens 31,175 other homes and buildings, said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). Authorities have increased evacuation orders to cover 180,000 people in Sonoma County, the sheriff’s office said.

“This is the largest evacuation that any of us at the Sheriff’s Office can remember,” the department tweeted. “Take care of each other.”

The Kaiser Permanente Hospital and Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital evacuated patients in Santa Rosa, the Sonoma County seat devastated by fire two years ago. The historic Soda Rock Winery in Sonoma County went up in flames.

Newsom said 3,000 fire personnel are working on the Kincade Fire. Resources have been brought in from San Diego and southern California to help, he said.