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California accuses PG&E of mishandling power outages amid wildfires

Powerful new winds could bring more devastation to parts of California already ravaged by wildfires. Crews battling the massive Kincade Fire in Northern California’s wine country fear the wind could fan the flames.

The wildfire has burned an area more than twice the size of San Francisco and destroyed nearly 60 homes. Six days after the fire first ignited, firefighters were scrambling to put out hot spots in hopes of getting an upper hand before wind gusts reaching as high as 50 mph kick up again, CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti reports.

“The wind will carry burning materials sometimes miles ahead of the fire,” Cal Fire spokesman Rhett Pratt said, “so we’re having to go around and one by one deal with those and mitigate those dangers as they pop up, which is always a difficulty, it being dynamic and not just a set fire line.”

In Southern California, where high winds fueled the Getty Fire in the early morning hours Monday, authorities are manning their fire lines with additional personnel. Their concern is predicted gusts of up to 80 mph.

“I’ve asked my command staff to do everything possible to ensure that the line is as cold as possible before those winds kick up,” Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said. With the wind expected to pick up in Northern California, California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, warned it could conduct its third power cut in less than a week; nearly 4 million people could be in the dark.

A firefighter gives orders as he battles the wind-driven Kincade Fire in Windsor, California, October 27, 2019.
A firefighter gives orders as he battles the wind-driven Kincade Fire in Windsor, California, October 27, 2019.

Reuters/Stephen Lam

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Electrical malfunctions may have caused two fires

PG&E said two fires that broke out Sunday in Lafayette, less than 20 miles northeast of San Francisco, may have been caused by its own electrical malfunctions. Despite cutting power to more than 2.5 million people, the electricity was not turned off in the area because it wasn’t designated as high risk, CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti reports.

“If we did go into a mode where we wanted to prevent everything from happening, then we’d have to shut the whole system down, and that’s just not acceptable,” PG&E President and CEO Andy Vesey told reporters. The utility also said it failed to notify 23,000 customers — including 500 with medical conditions — before shutting off their power.

“We’re going to investigate all of this, and we’re going to make a determination as to culpability,” Governor Gavin Newsom told reporters.

Kincade Fire grows to 74,324 acres

By 6:30 p.m. Monday, the Kincade Fire had grown to more than 74,000 acres, Cal Fire representative Jonathan Cox said at a press conference. The fire was 15% contained.

The blaze destroyed 123 structures, Cox said, 57 of which are residential homes. Twenty others were damaged, and 90,000 remain at risk.

Cox estimated that the fire will be contained by November 7, but said that it could take “weeks if not months” to fully extinguish the flames.

Due to another wind event expected to begin Tuesday, more evacuation orders have been issued for residents on the eastern side of Sonoma County. A representative from the National Weather Service predicted winds of 20-30 mph.

Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said that a few individuals entered an evacuation zone near Geyserville with “criminal intent.” Essick added that deputies made an arrest, and that the incident remains under investigation.

LeBron James evacuates house as Getty Fire erupts

New fire breaks out in the hills north of Santa Monica

As of 6 p.m. Monday, the Getty Fire in Los Angeles had burned over 600 acres and was 5% contained, according to the city’s fire department. Several neighborhoods were under evacuation orders, and at least eight homes were destroyed, according to Mayor Eric Garcetti.

A video posted on social media by a motorist shows one side of Highway 405 was turned into a towering inferno, CBS News correspondent Carter Evans reports. One of those displaced from his home by the several fires burning near Los Angeles was Lakers star LeBron James.

He tweeted Monday morning he had to evacuate his home suddenly and was driving around trying to find a place to go with his family. He followed up later saying he finally found a safe place.

Senator Kamala Harris also said that her family in California had evacuated due to the wildfires.

Congressman says no “immigration enforcement” at shelters

A California congressman said undocumented immigrants should not be afraid to go to wildfire shelters. Congressman Jared Huffman told reporters Monday morning the Department of Homeland Security assured him there wouldn’t be any “immigration enforcement activity” at shelters.

“Everyone seeking services or shelter from the immigrant community should do so with confidence that there will not be immigration enforcement activity,” the Democrat said.

PG&E monitoring 3rd consecutive wind event

Pacific Gas & Electric said Sunday that it’s monitoring a third consecutive wind event that could affect 32 counties across Northern and Central California. PG&E began cutting power for more than 2 million homes and businesses Saturday, including 1.3 million in the Bay Area.

The new, potentially widespread, strong and dry wind event is forecast for Tuesday morning through midday Wednesday for Northern California, according to PG&E. The weather system is forecast to impact Kern County late Tuesday through Thursday morning.

Due to the predicted extreme weather conditions, PG&E said it’s considering proactively turning off power for safety.

Portions of counties that may be impacted include, but are not limited to:

  • Alameda
  • Alpine
  • Amador
  • Butte
  • Calaveras
  • Colusa
  • Contra Costa
  • El Dorado
  • Glenn
  • Humboldt
  • Kern
  • Lake
  • Marin
  • Mariposa
  • Mendocino
  • Napa
  • Nevada
  • Placer
  • Plumas
  • San Mateo
  • Santa Clara
  • Santa Cruz
  • Shasta
  • Sierra
  • Solano
  • Sonoma
  • Stanislaus
  • Tehama
  • Trinity
  • Tuolumne
  • Yolo
  • Yuba