Flames consume a home as the Kincade Fire tears through the Jimtown community of Sonoma County, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Wildfire in Sonoma County forces thousands to evacuate

In California, 25 million people are under fire alerts as hot, dry and windy weather whips up dangerous conditions. A new fire broke out in a canyon Thursday evening, threatening around 200 homes about an hour north of Los Angeles. A number of structures have already burned.

Another explosive fire, the Kincade Fire, is burning in Sonoma County’s wine country, north of San Francisco. Homes are destroyed there and thousands had to run for safety.

The state’s largest electric company, PG&E had to shut off power to more than 150,000 homes and businesses, to prevent more fires from being sparked.

Within minutes, hillsides exploded overnight. The inferno could be seen for miles as flames raced across tinder-dry grass and brush. Driven by 60 mph winds, the fire burned the length of a football field every three seconds, sparking fire tornadoes and torching several homes. Farm animals were trapped and firefighters overwhelmed.

A firefighter sprays water on a burning home as the Kincade Fire burns through the Jimtown community of unincorporated Sonoma County, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. NOAH BERGER / AP

At one point, the erratic flames surrounded first responders and a CBS News crew. Our only option was to drive through the blaze. CBS News was guided through the thick smoke. It became clear that everyone needed to get out fast.

“It was outpacing us and we just couldn’t keep ahead of it. It’s always these fall months. They are the most damaging, the most destructive,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Amy Head.

In California’s wine country, crews continue to battle the fire from the air and the ground. But for some, it’s too late. Carlos Gonzalez and his co-workers tried to fight off the flames at their vineyards in the town of Geyserville. The grapes survived but their homes did not.

By Thursday night, around 2,000 people were evacuated. Many don’t know the fate of their homes. The wind has calmed down but is expected to pick back up on Saturday and last even longer.

Author: JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI CBS News
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