California firefighters battled destructive new wildfires in wine country north of San Francisco Monday as strong winds fanned flames in the already badly scorched state.
The new fires erupted Sunday in the famed Napa-Sonoma wine region in far northern California’s Shasta County, forcing hasty evacuations of neighbourhoods.
In wine country, flames engulfed the distinctive Chateau Boswell Winery north of St. Helena, The Black Rock Inn in the small community of St. Helena and multiple homes in the city of Santa Rosa, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Residents of a seniors’ home were among those evacuated.
The Adventist Health St. Helena hospital suspended care and transferred all patients elsewhere, according to a statement on its website.
The wine country blaze had burned 44 square kilometres as of early Monday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.
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Evacuations were also ordered in Shasta County as that fire spread.
The causes of both new fires were under investigation.
During the weekend, the Pacific Gas & Electric utility turned off electricity to targeted areas where the winds raised the potential for arcing or other power equipment damage that could spark new fires.
PG&E, the nation’s largest electric utility, is operating 28 community resource centres from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. while power is out. As of Sunday evening, the centres had received about 1,200 visitors, a spokesperson said.
The company continues to monitor weather conditions in concert with federal agencies including the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Warnings also for 2 southern counties
Fire-weary California is facing a new siege of hot, dry weather with potentially strong winds that could cause power lines to arc and spark new blazes in parched vegetation that’s ready to burn.
Red Flag warnings for extreme fire weather conditions were issued for the northern and central areas of the state from late Saturday to Monday, the National Weather Service said. Similar warnings were in place for parts of Southern California’s San Bernardino and Riverside counties on Monday.
So far this year, more than 8,100 California wildfires have scorched 14,970 square kilometres, destroyed more than 7,000 buildings and killed 26 people.
Most of the loss has occurred since a frenzy of dry lightning strikes in mid-August ignited a massive outbreak of fires. The causes of other fires remain under investigation, and authorities said one was caused by a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal event.
On Sunday, wind drove smoke from the new Napa County fire toward Sonoma and Marin counties, worsening the air quality, said Gerry Diaz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“We just have smoke on all fronts, unfortunately,” Diaz said.
Numerous studies in recent years have linked bigger wildfires in America to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas, especially because climate change has made California much drier.