In what is being described as the "October Fire Siege," more than 250 wildfires have raged across California in a little over a week.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire), the peak of the siege saw 21 major wildfires burn over 245,000 acres. It has taken 11,000 firefighters to battle the blazes that forced 100,000 to evacuate and destroyed nearly 7,000 structures. The fires also claimed 42 lives.
While fires have ignited across the state, the counties of Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma have incurred the greatest amount of damage. The region is often referred to as “wine country,” with sprawling vineyards and tasting rooms. Just north of San Francisco, it is also a populated suburban area.
Fires have ravaged entire neighborhoods, sending residents fleeing in the middle of the night. The so-called "Tubbs Fire" between the towns of Calistoga and Santa Rosa caused the greatest damage, burning more than 36,000 acres and claiming 23 lives.
While the fires are still burning, recovery is just beginning. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), the region’s power provider, has moved swiftly to restore power and assess the damages, even as accusations are hurled against the utility for causing the fires.
Although CalFire has yet to determine the cause of the fires, speculation points toward a deadly combination of high winds, dry conditions and aging power lines. One couple who lost its Santa Rosa home in the Tubbs Fire has already sued PG&E for negligence.
For its part, the utility is focusing on recovery and power restoration. According to PG&E, about 359,000 of its customers lost electric power, and the company has restored power to all but about 3,600 customers.
As of 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19, PG&E also restored service to 33,769 gas customers, approximately 89 percent of those who can be restored.
This story is developing. ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR will publish an update as more information becomes available.