Oregon firefighters head to California

A police officer stops traffic Monday at an intersection without power in Lafayette, California. PG&E said its power lines may have started two wildfires over the weekend despite widespread blackouts.(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Wildfires always have been a normal part of the California landscape, but now the state’s autumn blazes have become a normal part of national news coverage as well.

The reason: The fires have become progressively worse in recent years.

The Kincade Fire, which started Wednesday and is being driven by what the state is calling “historic winds,” has blackened more than 50 square miles in Northern California, including wineries in Sonoma County. It has triggered evacuations and power outages.

In Southern California, meanwhile, the Getty Fire roars on the west side of Los Angeles’ Interstate 405 freeway. It swept through the star-studded hills of Los Angeles on Monday, destroying several large homes and forcing LeBron James and thousands of others to flee. At least eight homes were destroyed and six damaged, fire officials said.

No deaths from either blaze were reported, but a firefighter was seriously injured in the blaze in Sonoma County wine country. Authorities later said he was in stable condition.

Some 2.2 million people lacked electricity after Pacific Gas & Electric shut it off over the weekend in the northern part of the state to prevent its equipment from sparking blazes during windy weather. More deliberate blackouts are possible in the coming days because another round of strong winds is expected.

California’s government on Sunday called for help through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual-aid agreement among states. Oregon has responded by sending about 300 firefighters with 15 “strike teams.”

The Statesman Journal reports the strike teams, made up of nearly 300 firefighters who will assist in protecting structures, were sent from Klamath, Douglas, Yamhill, Linn, Columbia, Clatsop, Benton, Multnomah, Marion, Washington, Clackamas, Lincoln, Jackson, Josephine, and Lane counties.

California’s annual battles with fire are now requiring significantly more resources than in decades past, prompting regular requests for help from other states. In recent years, fire officials say, the fire season in California has lengthened by about 75 days.

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