Fears California wildfires will turn deadly as strong winds forecast

Embers fly from a tree as the Kincade Fire burns near Geyserville Calif. on Thursday Oct. 24 2019. Portions of Northern California remain in the dark after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. cut power to prevent wildfires from sparking during dry and windy

Fears California wildfires will turn deadly as strong winds forecast

Wildfires raged across California on Friday, destroying homes and forcing evacuations, as over 1,000 firefighters tackled flames in the southern part of the state alone.

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The power shut-offs were imposed after PG&E electrical equipment was blamed for several blazes in recent years that killed scores of people and burned thousands of homes.

The drastic measure has been widely criticised for poor planning and execution that has left people without electricity even when they weren't in areas facing fire danger.

Police officers went door-to-door in the middle of the night, telling residents to leave. The broader evacuation order - expanded from 50,000 people earlier in the day - came as PG&E was shutting down power in the area.

As hot embers flew, subdivision homes and rural ranch properties were damaged or destroyed in the Canyon Country area of Santa Clarita and in the nearby community of Castaic.

By Thursday night the wildfires in Kincade had reportedly burnt through 10,000 acres of land. At one point, firefighters in Sonoma County reportedly faced wind gusts topping 70 miles per hour (110 kph). The warning was announced as firefighters tried to contain the blaze in Northern and Southern California.

On Saturday, authorities took advantage of the lull in winds to dispatch several air planes and helicopters to fight the Kincade Fire, said Tricia Austin, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"Let's not let our guard down", said Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

The department said it was preparing for more wind Sunday and Monday.

A firefighter lights a back fire during the Kincade fire near Geyserville, California on October 24, 2019.

Some 40,000 residents were evacuated on Thursday after a fast moving brush fire near Los Angeles threatened 10,000 structures. Winds out of the north were driving the fire as firefighters struggled to save homes.

The utility said it would shut off power in phases across 36 counties, starting at 2 pm on Saturday (0900 AEDT).

California's largest utility company told state regulators Friday that one of its power jumpers broke within minutes of the start of an ongoing inferno tearing through the state's wine country.

Here is the latest information on the Kincade fires.

A number of wildfires are also raging in the northern part of the state.

PG&E has come under fierce scrutiny after power was earlier shut down to almost 28,000 customers in Sonoma County this week, but some high-voltage transmission lines were still operating when the fire broke out.

The dry, hot desert winds, gusting at speeds of up to 112kmh, gave way to light breezes on Thursday night, slowing the fires' advance and presenting crews with a chance to make significant headway against the flames.

Winds could reach 60 miles per hour near Sacramento and Redding Saturday night and into Sunday.

The strong winds in the north were expected to subside Friday but are forecast to pick up again on Sunday, the National Weather Service warned.

Over the last weeks, the PG&E has been enacting preventative shutoffs all over northern and central California, but this could be the largest. Residents in Northern California counties including Marin, Alameda and San Mateo could be in the dark this weekend in an effort to keep fires from sparking.

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