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California Wildfire Update: Danger Shifting South to the L.A. Basin!

By Team Morecast


The massive Kincade fire continues to burn tens of thousands of acres in the Sonoma wine country just north of San Francisco, California. Thousands of residents have been evacuated, while hundreds of thousands of others face days-long power outages. Now high winds and dry heat are expected to make for extremely hazardous fire conditions further south, in the Los Angeles basin, for Wednesday.



The Kincade fire has consumed more than 75,000 acres (300 square km) in Sonoma County since it ignited late last week, so large that it can be seen easily from space (see image at top). Periodic high winds have prevented a firefighting force of thousands from gaining the upper hand. As of Tuesday, only 15% of the fire has been controlled. In an effort to prevent additional fires from igniting, regional supplier PG&E has cut power to nearly 1,000,000 customers in central California. These controlled blackouts help reduce the threat of live wires downed by the high winds sparking new flames. But the blackouts have added to criticism of the company already forced into bankruptcy due to deadly wildfires for which they were found responsible in 2017-18. Fortunately for central California, winds have begun to diminish and temperatures are falling towards winter-like values.



Unfortunately, the same cannot be said further south towards the L.A. Basin. Months with no measurable rainfall have left plenty of dry scrub brush, ideal fuel for potential wildfires. The notorious Santa Ana winds are expected to blow on Wednesday with gusts approaching 60-80 mph (100-130 kph) in some spots (see animation above). Any stray fire will rapidly spread out of control in these conditions, straining already over-stretched firefighting resources. Already this week a relatively small wildfire threatened the Getty Art Museum and forced the evacuation of thousands, including basketball star LeBron James and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lead photo courtesy Sentinel satellite data, processed by Pierre Markuse.