California wildfires force evacuations as fierce winds fuel the blazes

Toa55/iStock(LOS ANGELES) -- Wildfires are scorching thousands of acres and forcing tens of thousands of people from Los Angeles to wine country to evacuate.

The Tick Fire erupted on Thursday in Los Angeles County. Fueled by ferocious 50 mph winds, the blaze is threatening homes in Santa Clarita.

The blaze jumped over a freeway overnight, lighting up guardrail posts like tiki torches and illuminating the way for firefighters.

Over 600 firefighters are relentlessly battling the blaze, racing from one house to another and extinguishing brush fires that are threatening homes.

Police officers went door-to-door in the middle of the night, telling residents to leave. About 50,000 people have been ordered to evacuate.

The Tick Fire has covered 4,300 acres and is only 5 percent contained.

All Los Angeles Unified School District campuses in the San Fernando Valley were closed Friday as the blaze rages on.

The cause is unknown.

And the dry Santa Ana winds are expected to continue in Southern California Friday, with gusts possible up to 70 mph in the Los Angeles mountains.

"The erratic winds today pose a challenge for our firefighters as they may change direction and intensify, posing a greater threat to homes," Cal Fire officials said Friday morning.

Hundreds of miles north in Sonoma County, the heart of Northern California's wine country, the Kincade Fire has consumed 21,900 acres and is just 5 percent contained.

About 2,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders, and the blaze has destroyed at least 49 structures.

PG&E on Wednesday preemptively turned off power to about 28,000 customers in Sonoma County in an attempt to avoid fires.

The utility also said in a statement there appeared to be a "broken jumper" on a transmission tower near where the Kincade Fire is believed to have started.

And for parts of Northern California, the worst may be yet to come.

Strong, dry winds, which fuel fires, are forecast to move into the region this weekend.

Winds could reach 60 mph near Sacramento and Redding Saturday night and into Sunday.

The National Weather Service says this next round of dangerous fire weather could be the strongest of the year for the area and could be the worst wind event since the 2017 Wine Country fires.

"We do think it will be possibly the strongest offshore winds we have seen in years," PG&E meteorologist Scott Strenfel added Thursday night

PG&E, which provides electricity to millions of Californians, is warning that the weekend may bring one of its biggest planned power shutoffs. Residents in Northern California counties including Marin, Alameda and San Mateo could be in the dark this weekend in an effort to keep fires from sparking.

As of Friday morning 42,000 customers in the Golden State were without power due to planned shutoffs.

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