Two deadly wildfires blazed in Southern California on Friday, each killing at least one person and burning through dozens of residences as the state remained on high alert with multiple fires burning, thousands evacuated and widespread power outages ordered in an attempt at prevention.
The Sandalwood fire in Riverside County, part of the greater Los Angeles area, started Thursday and had grown to 832 acres by Friday morning and was only 10% contained, according to Cal Fire’s local division chief, Todd Hopkins.
The blaze had killed one person and destroyed 76 structures in a mobile home park by 11 a.m. local time Friday. Evacuations were ordered in the area as 250 firefighters tried to control the “very rapid-moving fire,” as the fire chief put it in a news conference Friday. The fire had started from a garbage truck that dumped burning trash that spread to vegetation.
“We’re being challenged with the weather and the wind,” Hopkins said, noting firefighters were “competing with resources right now due to all the other fire activity going on in Southern California.”
Meanwhile, another fire burned nearby in Los Angeles County. The Saddleridge fire blazed over 7,500 acres, destroyed 25 buildings and was only 13% contained by midday Friday. One person died of cardiac arrest related to the fire, according to Cal Fire.
More than 100,000 people were ordered to evacuate the area as over 1,000 firefighters tried to stop the blaze.
The National Weather Service warned of “extremely critical” fire weather across Southern California Friday, with strong winds combining with dry conditions to create high risk of fires.
More than 200 people spent the previous night in Red Cross shelters.
Southern California Edison began cutting power in some areas Thursday in an attempt at prevention, with outages affecting about 20,000 people by Friday, per NBC.
Meanwhile in Northern California, public outrage grew earlier this week as about 800,000 customers, or an estimated 2 million residents, had power cut by utility PG&E. By late Thursday, the company restored power to more than half of residences, as weather conditions improved in the north, with about 300,000 customers still left without power, per the utility.
California has been experiencing record-breaking, worsening wildfires in recent years. Some of the state’s worst wildfires were sparked by PG&E’s power lines, often due to damaged lines coming into contact with nearby tree branches ― including last year’s Camp fire in Northern California, which was the deadliest wildfire in state history.
Earlier this week marked the two-year anniversary since the deadly 2017 wildfires near Santa Rosa killed 44 people ― the deadliest at the time, until the Camp fire last year, which killed 85 people around the rural community of Paradise.
This article has been updated with later statistics on fire damage.