California wildfires: Tens of thousands evacuated as wine country under threat

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Winds of up to 80mph are forecast on Friday, potentially fanning the flames and risking the outbreak of more fires.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate as wildfires rage in California, threatening large areas including its famous wine-growing region.

At least 40,000 fled their homes in the foothills north of Los Angeles, with winds of up to 40mph fanning the flames and creating huge plumes of smoke in the Santa Clarita area.

No injuries have been reported but fire chiefs say the Tick fire – affecting around 5,000 acres – is still not contained.

Image:Firefighters battle a fire in the hills north of Los Angeles
Image:A firefighter hops over a locked gate near the fire in Southern California

California power companies have cut electricity to around 200,000 homes and businesses to stop strong winds toppling trees or blowing debris onto power lines and starting more fires.

In the state’s upmarket wine country in Sonoma County, 2,000 people were ordered to evacuate after a damaged electricity tower sparked a fire.

The Sonoma blaze – known as the Kincade fire – has affected around 10,000 acres and is about 5% contained.

Image:Embers fly off a tree as a bulldozer prepares to help fight the fire near Geyserville
Image:A vineyard building is engulfed in flames

Geyserville, famous for its nearby hot springs, is one of the places where people have been forced to flee.

The flames raged on the outskirts of the historic town, threatening the River Rock Casino as well as the area’s famous vineyards.

Harry Bosworth, 81, said he had woken up to find a firetruck and firefighters in his driveway.

As he and his wife escaped, flames surrounded their driveway and their barn caught fire: “I could see the fire coming, so we got the heck out of there,” Mr Bosworth said.

Julia Jackson, who has thousands of acres of vineyards, posted on Instagram that her home was “burnt down to the ground”.

“Stuff is just stuff. Thank God I’m alive,” she wrote.

Image:California’s famous vineyards are at risk

Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said that some people were still refusing to leave.

“Please heed our evacuation order,” he said in a televised news conference. “We really need to be able to fight the fire, rather than worrying about rescuing you.”

Forty-four people died in wildfires in the same area of Northern California two years ago.

Strong winds were expected to intensify on Friday, with potential gusts of 80mph meaning the situation could get worse before it gets better.

Credit: Sky News

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