A California wildfire has exploded in size as dangerously windy weather prompted the state’s largest utility company to impose electrical blackouts in an effort to prevent any catastrophes.
Authorities ordered all 900 residents of the community of Geyserville to evacuate after the fire in the Sonoma County wine region north of San Francisco grew to more than 15 square miles.
At least three homes were destroyed in the region.
The wildfire risk is extremely high as humidity levels have plunged and winds have been gusting up to 70mph.
The Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) began rolling blackouts stretching from the Sierra foothills in the north-east to portions of the San Francisco Bay area in a bid to keep the electrical grid from causing fires due to wind that can send power lines toppling.
The blackouts impacted half a million people in 15 counties, and PG&E warned that a second round of outages could occur over the weekend when winds were forecast to return.
“We understand the hardship caused by these shut-offs,” said PG&E CEO Bill Johnson. “But we also understand the heartbreak and devastation caused by catastrophic wildfires.”
The latest outage comes two weeks after PG&E shut down the power for several days to about two million people in northern and central California.
The current outages will last about 48 hours, the utility said. But its seven-day forecast shows a likelihood of another planned blackout across a much larger area.
“This could be the strongest wind event of the season, unfortunately,” said PG&E meteorologist Scott Strenfel.