California fires: Biggest winds in years threaten LA, Kincade Fire explodes to 75K acres

The Getty Fire is just 5% contained. The Kincade Fire is 15% contained.

October 29, 2019, 10:12 PM

The biggest Santa Ana wind event in years may be heading to Southern California Tuesday night, making the dangerous wildfires even more unmanageable.

A whopping 43 counties in California are experiencing red flag warnings as firefighters brace for a historic wind event expected to start Tuesday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters.

Getty Fire

Burning in the hills north of Los Angeles' famous Getty Center, the Getty Fire, which started just before 2 a.m. local time Monday, has consumed over 650 acres and destroyed at least eight homes along steep terrain.

"This fire will not be down and done for a couple of weeks," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned Tuesday.

Garcetti said Tuesday the fire was sparked when a dry tree branch fell onto a power line.

Firefighters walk past a burnt home during the Getty Fire in Brentwood, Calif., Oct. 28, 2019.
Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images
The Getty fire in Los Angeles, Oct. 28, 2019.
Qian Weizhong/Xinhua/Newscom

Over 20,000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes in the middle of the night, including in neighborhoods like Brentwood and the Pacific Palisades, some of the most expensive real estate in the city.

The blaze is 15% contained and has destroyed 12 homes and partially damaged five homes, Garcetti said Tuesday afternoon. A major Santa Ana wind event hitting Tuesday night and lasting until Thursday could trigger significant blazes, firefighters warned.

More than 1,100 personnel are assigned to fighting the Getty Fire alone, Garcetti said.

"We've seen historically what's happened," said Los Angeles Fire Department Assistant Chief Jaime Moore, citing the 1961 Bel Air Fire that destroyed more than 400 homes.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles area could face sustained winds up to 35 mph and wind gusts up to 85 mph. The air is expected to be especially dry, which also fuels fires.

"So we know the footprint that this fire can make with heavy gusts of wind," Moore told ABC News Tuesday. "What we're gonna see tonight, about 11 p.m., as these Santa Ana winds come through ... probably the worst winds Los Angeles has seen in the last two to three years."

Moore, defending the decision to evacuate so many residents, warned that the winds could trigger significant fires by stirring up embers and then hurling them 1 or 2 miles away.

"We anticipate that nobody [in the evacuation zone] is going home tonight," Garcetti said Tuesday.

"I want people in Brentwood and Palisades ... to understand the department is doing this on history and based on very keen analysis of the weather patterns," Los Angeles Councilmember Mike Bonin said Tuesday. "It is that analysis and that determined effort to protect that same thing from happening that is leading to the continued evacuation order."

Kincade Fire

Meanwhile, in Northern California, the monster Kincade Fire has been burning since Wednesday night in the heart of wine country.

The massive blaze has consumed over 76,000 acres and has destroyed at least 189 structures, including 86 single-family homes. About 130,000 people in Northern California are under evacuation orders, down from 180,000, Newsom said.

Firefighters give direction as a wind-driven fire burns a structure on a farm during the Kincade fire in Windsor, Calif., Oct. 27, 2019.
Philip Pacheco/AFP/Getty Images
A wind-driven fire burns a structure on a farm during the Kincade fire in Windsor, Calif., Oct. 27, 2019.
Philip Pacheco/AFP/Getty Images

Newsom called the Kincade Fire the most "vexing" and "challenging."

Extreme wind conditions are forecast for Northern California Tuesday. Gusts could reach 50 to 65 mph.

Thousands of firefighters are working around the clock to battle the blaze, which is 15% contained. The cause is under investigation.

The Stauer family's house was destroyed by a wildfire two years ago -- and now a new home, just three months old, is being threatened by the Kincade Fire.

"We're veterans now," Nick Stauer told ABC News.

"We are both Sonoma County natives," said Stpehanie Stauer. "We were born and raised in Petaluma, and this is the first time as this event is unfolding that we've seriously had the conversation of it might be time to really reconsider leaving here."

While the Getty Fire and Kincade Fire still pose major threats, crews put out over 300 blazes across the Golden State within 24 hours, Newsom said Monday. Firefighters from states across the West came to California to help.

Two firefighters were injured while battling the Kincade Fire. One was hospitalized and is in stable condition, officials said Tuesday.

ABC News' Matt Fuhrman and Melissa Griffin contributed to this report.

Related Topics