California Winds Subside, Wildfires Mostly Contained

Officials in California say fierce winds that have fueled fires across the state have subsided, allowing firefighters to mostly contain blazes that raged in the north and south.

The largest fire, in the northern wine county, was 80% contained on Monday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Cal Fire said the fire in Sonoma County, dubbed the Kincade Fire, burned more than 32,000 hectares and destroyed more than 370 structures since it began Oct. 23.

In Southern California, a blaze that erupted outside of Los Angeles on Thursday was 70% contained. The so-called Maria Fire destroyed 3,800 hectares and destroyed two structures near the community of Santa Paula, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

A new study published Monday said invasive grasses may be contributing to more wildfires in the United States, especially in California. In the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ecologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, along with colleagues at the University of Colorado-Boulder, show that locations where common Mediterranean grass invades, fires ignite three times more often. The scientists found eight species of non-native grass that correlated with increased fire risk.

The recent fires in California sparked Twitter comments on Sunday by President Donald Trump and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Trump tweeted that Newsom had done a "terrible job of forest management."

"Every year, as the fire's rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more," Trump wrote.

Newsom replied on Twitter: "You don't believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation."

The wildfires across California forced nearly 200,000 people to evacuate. The fires have been fueled by seasonal Santa Ana winds, hot dry winds that blow in from the desert.

Last week, Southern California Edison said that 13 minutes before the Maria Fire broke out, the utility began to re-energize a power line in the same area where the fire erupted.

Another utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric acknowledged last week that one of its live power lines might have sparked the Kincade blaze. It said a transmission tower malfunctioned around the same time and place that the fire is believed to have begun.

California authorities blame PG&E lines for sparking last year's wildfires that killed 85 people and destroyed entire towns. The utility, facing billions of dollars in lawsuits, was forced to declare bankruptcy earlier this year.

by via Voice of America - English