Firefighters only will have a very short respite in their battle against California wildfires.
In Sonoma County, the massive Kincade Fire has consumed more than 75,000 acres — that is over twice the size of San Francisco — in a span of just six days. And after a brief lull overnight, the massive winds that have been powering the blaze are expected to come back to life by Tuesday evening.
The National Weather Service in the Bay Area is warning that the return of those winds, combined with continuing low humidity and high temperatures, will offer ideal conditions for the fire’s spread Tuesday morning into Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re in this critical 24-hour window,” Ryan Walbrun, a meteorologist, said at a news conference Tuesday. “We’re hopeful that after we get through this wind event, things do look favorable for the next five to seven days.”
The short-term forecast is not-so-welcome news for the more than 4,500 fire personnel who are assigned to battle the blaze. They have struggled through steep terrain and narrow roads to bring the fire to just about 15% containment. More than 120 structures have been destroyed, and two firefighters have been injured. No fatalities have been reported.
Fire officials say they don’t expect to have the wildfire fully contained until Nov. 7.
Pacific Gas & Electric have also been alarmed by the fire-friendly conditions on the horizon. They announced that it is expecting to perform another round of mass power shutoffs. Previously they have implemented a power blackout zone affecting nearly 1 million customers.
The company says the outages are meant “to prevent a catastrophic wildfire sparked by electrical equipment during extreme weather events.” But that position has brought skepticism from state authorities like Gov. Gavin Newsom. Earlier this month he blasted the utility for making its customers foot the bill for its decades of “greed and neglect.”
The L.A. Fire Department said Tuesday morning that the Getty Fire, which had grown to more than 650 acres, remains just 5% contained. And with strong winds expected to reach up to 70 mph by Tuesday night, firefighters are afraid that embers riding the gusts could significantly complicate their fight to get the blaze under control.
“This fire will not be down and done for at least a couple weeks,” Mayor Eric Garcetti warned at a news conference Tuesday morning.