LOS ANGELES — Crews fought Tuesday to drown, slash and smother wildfires that have incinerated dozens of homes in Northern and Southern California before returning windstorms can blow them back into furious life.
In California wine country, firefighters worked to reinforce fire lines in western Sonoma County while rushing to shore up the eastern side that could be the new focus as winds switched direction.
Bulldozers carved firebreaks, hand crews attacked hot spots with hoses and shovels, and aircraft painted hillsides with fire retardant.
The fire that began last week near the town of Geyserville had destroyed 57 homes and damaged another dozen, with 90,000 homes and other buildings considered threatened. About 156,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders.
The blaze was 15% contained.
Evacuation orders were downgraded to warnings for some 30,000 people in the west but new warnings were issued to people in the east, with Calistoga in Napa County and Middletown in Lake County — a community badly damaged by a 2015 wildfire.
Santa Ana Winds Could Reignite Embers
Winds were expected to hit 20 to 30 mph Tuesday, with gusts of up to 50 mph by afternoon. The winds will peak by midnight before easing, forecasters said.
In the south, a brief lull in the wind helped crews attacking a blaze that swept through the star-studded hills of Los Angeles on Monday. The fire roared up a steep hillside near the J. Paul Getty Museum in the Brentwood section. It destroyed at least eight homes and damaged at least six, forcing LeBron James and thousands of others to flee.
The Getty, with its collection of priceless art, was not threatened, fire officials said.
With no rain and more wind in the forecast, the coming days could be grim.
The flames didn’t discriminate. In wine country, vineyard farmworkers were among those displaced. In Los Angeles, James and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger were driven from their homes along with tens of thousands of others.
Power Cut to Hundreds of Thousands of Customers
“Man, these LA (fires) are no joke,” the Los Angeles Lakers star tweeted, using an emoji for the word “fires.” ”Crazy night.”
Joann Killeen packed up her important papers, medicine, power bars and her dog Riley and fled as soon as she got an evacuation call from the fire department on her cellphone at about 2 a.m. Monday. Her hilly neighborhood is vulnerable to fires and Killeen said she has been evacuated five times in 18 years.
Utilities in the north and south repeatedly cut power to hundreds of thousands of customers in recent weeks because of concerns that winds would knock down lines and spark fires. Officials warned of yet another round of safety shut-offs.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said some 1.5 million people will be hit with more shut-offs starting Tuesday. PG&E also has said its transmission lines may have been responsible for the Sonoma County fire.
Southern California Edison had cut off power to about 800 people as of Monday night and warned that it was considering disconnecting about 400,000 more as winds return midweek.