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States Of Emergency And Possible Power Cuts As California Faces Wildfires


And the latest now on fires in California. Governor Gavin Newsom declared states of emergency in Los Angeles and Sonoma counties. It's not just fires; it's also power outages that are part of the greater concern. The utility company PG&E says it might have to cut power to almost 2 million people this weekend to try to stop more fires from starting.

NPR's Nathan Rott is following the story from Los Angeles. Nathan, thanks so much for being with us.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Yeah, happy to be here, Scott.

SIMON: And what's the latest on the fire near you?

ROTT: So the fire near me is the Tick fire, and we got good news on that last night. There were some 50,000 people who had been forced to flee from it in the last couple of days. And officials started letting some of those folks return to their homes. The fire was not as active yesterday as, you know, I expected it to be given how hot and dry it is here and how hard the winds were blowing while I was up in the foothills north of Los Angeles.

Of course, there are still concerns that those strong winds could catch an ember, you know, breathe new life into the fire or that a new one could start. But, you know, firefighters were patrolling around the fire all of last night, and I have not heard of any significant flare-up yet this morning.

SIMON: What about the situation up north?

ROTT: So this is the place to watch through the weekend and the place where there's a lot of concern. The Kincaid fire is the biggest current fire in the northern part of the state. It's in wine country, not far from where those devastating and deadly wine country wildfires burnt a couple of Octobers ago. Officials put out new evacuation orders near that fire last night, and there's very scary potential there. High winds are expected across the state this weekend, but meteorologists are describing the wind event that they're expecting in Northern California as generational. Forecasts are calling for wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour starting later tonight. Those winds are expected to keep howling into Monday, so we have three days of really strong, dangerous winds ahead of us.

And remember; you know, it was strong winds it fueled those wine country fires I just mentioned. It was strong winds it fueled the deadliest wildfire in California history, the Camp Fire last year. So that's why we're seeing these utility companies take this kind of crazy step to cut power to consumers across the state.

SIMON: And let's talk about that because Governor Newsom addressed the way PG&E has been handling the situation yesterday. And he was not at all happy.

ROTT: No, no. I think that's a fair representation. He was really upset. You know, let's take a listen to a bit of what he had to say.


GAVIN NEWSOM: We should not have to be here. Years and years of greed, years and years of mismanagement.

ROTT: Now Newsom feels that the utilities have been negligent in keeping vegetation away from their power lines, that they haven't maintained them like they should. He is not alone there. Many people in the state feel that way. So instead, you know, of dealing with it, like, by taking care of their power lines ahead of time, they're cutting power to potentially millions. And, you know, like, look; nobody wants to see new fires, but people depend on power for their respirators. You know, to see it's - you know, if you can imagine how scary a fire is, imagine a fire when there's no power. So a lot of folks are really in a tough situation.

SIMON: NPR's Nate Rott speaking with us from Los Angeles. Thanks so much for being with us.

ROTT: Yeah, happy to be here, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF PELL MELL'S "BUTTERFLY EFFECT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.