LOS ANGELES (AP) — A fast-moving wildfire forced evacuations for 60,000 people in Southern California on Monday as powerful winds across the state prompted power to be cut to hundreds of thousands to prevent utility equipment from sparking new blazes.
The smoky fire exploded in size to 2,000 acres within a few hours of breaking out shortly after dawn in Orange County, south of Los Angeles. Strong gusts pushed flames along brushy ridges in Silverado Canyon toward homes in the city of Irvine, home to about 280,000 people.
Kelsey Brewer and her three roommates decided to leave their townhouse before the evacuation order came in. The question was where to go in the pandemic. They decided on the home of her girlfriend’s mother, who has ample space and lives alone.
“We literally talked about it this morning,” Brewer said, adding that she feels lucky to have a safe place to go. “We can only imagine how screwed everyone else feels. There’s nowhere you can go to feel safe.”
The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known.
More than 300,000 power customers — estimated at about 1 million people — were in the dark in the northern part of the state as officials issued warnings for what could be the strongest winds in California this year. About 5,000 customers lost power Monday in Southern California.
Firefighting crews that had been at the ready overnight quickly contained small blazes that broke out Sunday in Northern California’s Sonoma and Shasta counties. The causes were under investigation.
North of San Francisco, a Mount St. Helena weather station recorded a hurricane-force gust of 89 mph (143 kph) late Sunday and sustained winds of 76 mph (122 kph). Some Sierra Nevada peaks registered gusts well over 100 mph (161 mph).