The Kincade Fire has been spreading through California wine country for a week, fuelled by powerful winds as it devours dry vegetation.
Diablo winds (northern California’s version of the Santa Ana winds, though some people refer to both by the same name) have enabled the flames to tear through an estimated 76,825 acres (31,000 hectares) – an area more than twice the size of San Francisco. About 180,000 people have been ordered to evacuate.
Images from space taken by Maxar satellites show the fire’s spread across Sonoma County. The image below shows the blaze on October 24. It began the day before, possibly due to a broken jumper cable on an electricity transmission tower owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E).
In a preliminary report to regulators, PG&E said it responded to a problem with a high-voltage line that forced a power outage in the area where the fire broke out. When PG&E crews arrived at the transmission tower, they found that Cal Fire had taped off an area at the tower’s base. Cal Fire personnel pointed out the broken jumper cable, which may have sparked the flames.
Overnight, the blaze exploded, burning a 10,000-acre area.
Seen in infrared light, the damage is clear. In the satellite image below, unaffected land appears blue, while burned vegetation appears rust-coloured. The active parts of the fire glow red and orange. In the non-active burned areas, the fire is a smokey smolder.
The blaze was 30 percent contained as of Wednesday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). So far, it has destroyed 206 structures, including 94 homes, and left 40 damaged. Cal Fire reported that two first responders have been injured.
Smoke from the fire has mostly drifted over the Pacific Ocean, but it has also caused air quality warnings across the Bay Area.
The Diablo winds blow down from neighbouring mountains toward the California coast during the fall and winter. They’re typically fiercest in the fall, before the first rains of the season arrive. Gusts of up to 102 mph (164 km/h) were recorded in the Sonoma County area over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
“The wind almost always brings a great surge in temperature and dry air,” AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said in a report on the fire.
In southern California, meanwhile, Santa Ana winds have allowed the 656-acre Getty Fire in Los Angeles to spread. Thousands have evacuated their homes.
Fire conditions are expected to continue across the state, “with no precipitation relief in sight,” the National Weather Service said on Twitter.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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