Thursday, October 12

Sparks from downed power lines likely reason for simultaneity of NoCal wildfires

Gale-force winds on Sunday knocked down many electrical poles around the same time, and any sparks from the wires would've landed on bone-dry vegetation situated near masses of tinder-dry brush.  That's all it would have taken in the hot dry weather to set off several fires in different areas. At least that's a plausible theory that fire officials in California are looking at to explain the outbreak of several fires around the same time:

From the latest update from Reuters on the wildfires, posted 45 minutes ago:
SONOMA, Calif. (Reuters) - Firefighters facing a resurgence of high winds on Wednesday struggled to halt wildfires that have killed at least 23 people, destroyed 3,500 structures and left hundreds missing in chaotic evacuations across northern California’s wine country.
Nearly two dozen blazes spanning eight counties have charred around 170,000 acres (68,797 hectares).
Flames erupted on Sunday night when gale force winds toppled power lines across the region, possibly igniting one of the deadliest wildfire outbreaks in California history.
Flames were spread rapidly by hot, dry “Diablo” winds - similar to Southern California’s Santa Ana winds - that blew into northern California toward the Pacific on Sunday night.
The official cause of the fire has not been determined. But electric wires knocked down by those same winds may have sparked the conflagration, according to Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
“That is definitely a possibility,” he told Reuters. “Power lines are a common cause of fires during wind events.”
Matt Nauman, a spokesman for the region’s main utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, acknowledged that fallen power lines were widespread during the “historic wind event,” which he said packed some hurricane-strength gusts in excess of 75 miles per hour (120 km/h).
As to whether there's any relief in sight -- not for several days. From a CBS News report updated at 11:36pm EDT, October 11:
CBS San Francisco reports the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the Bay Area, which will remain in effect until 5 p.m. Thursday. Forecasters say the next chance for showers in northern California will not arrive until Oct. 20 at the earliest.
"The red flags could push this fire in other directions," battalion chief Jonathan Cox told CBS News correspondent Carter Evans. "So, these firefighters are literally the line between the front of this fire and thousands of homes that are being impacted right now."
Nearly three days after the flames ignited in Northern California, firefighters were still unable to gain control the blazes, which were growing in number. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said 22 wildfires were burning, up from 17 on Tuesday.
Flames have raced across the wine-growing region and the coastal beauty of Mendocino further north, leaving little more than smoldering ashes and eye-stinging smoke in their wake. Whole neighborhoods are gone, with only brick chimneys and charred laundry machines to mark sites that were once family homes.

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