Bushfires tear through eastern Australia, leaving one dead and at least 100 homes razed


At least two hospitals in Santa Rosa – Kaiser Permanente Hospital and Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital – evacuated patients over the weekend to other hospitals.

The Kincade Fire – the most devastating in California this year – ignited Wednesday and spread quickly thanks to powerful wind gusts up to 145km/h (90mph).

About 80,000 structures were still under threat from the fast-moving flames that have consumed 94 buildings since the fire began. No deaths have been reported.

Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Sunday due to the “unprecedented” high winds that significantly raise the risk of fires.

“We are deploying every resource available, and are coordinating with numerous agencies as we continue to respond to these fires,” Newsom said.

“It is critical that people in evacuation zones heed the warnings from officials and first responders, and have the local and state resources they need as we fight these fires.”

An estimated 180,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders, including in parts of Santa Rosa and a large swathe of Sonoma County all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

A firefighter emerges from a thick cloud of smoke while battling the Kincade Fire along Chalk Hill Road in Healdsburg, California. Photo: AFP

A firefighter emerges from a thick cloud of smoke while battling the Kincade Fire along Chalk Hill Road in Healdsburg, California. Photo: AFP

“This is the largest evacuation that any of us at the Sheriff’s Office can remember. Take care of each other,” the Sonoma County sheriff’s office tweeted.

Authorities said the area would remain under dangerous red flag conditions until Monday morning US time.

“Things will improve as we head into Monday and Tuesday but we need to be resilient as it looks like we have another north wind event, another dry event that is going to impact the region Tuesday night into Wednesday,” a spokesman for the National Weather Service said.

A fire official warned that should the flames continue spreading west and jump over a major freeway -the 101 – that could prove even more catastrophic, as that region hasn’t had any fires since the 1940s.

“The fuels in that area are extremely dense, they are extremely old and decadent and they are extremely dry,” he said, referring to combustible material, including shrubs and trees that feed a fire.

A helicopter tries to extinguish a fire in Sonoma County. Photo: Xinhua

A helicopter tries to extinguish a fire in Sonoma County. Photo: Xinhua

More than 3,000 firefighters backed by air tankers and helicopters were battling to control the blaze, which was not expected to be contained before November 7, fire officials said.

Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said that hundreds of police officers backed by the National Guard had been deployed in regions under evacuation orders to check property and prevent looting.

Several other fires have erupted throughout the state in the last week, fuelled by high winds, bone-dry conditions and high temperatures.

One major fire – the Tick Fire – in the southern part of the state, north of Los Angeles, also prompted evacuations and destroyed a number of homes near Santa Clarita.

In a bid to reduce the risk of fire, California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co, said it expected to turn off power to nearly one million customers across northern and central California.

PG&E has come under intense scrutiny after it emerged that one of its transmissions lines may have played a role in the Kincade Fire.

The same type of line was responsible for California’s deadliest wildfire ever – , which killed 86 people.

Additional reporting by The Washington Post



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