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California fire crews race against the clock to contain multiple blazes

Wildfires are burning out of control across Northern and Southern California, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate their homes, blocking roads and closing schools. The state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, admits its electrical equipment could have sparked the Sonoma County blaze, and warns of further blackouts this weekend if dry, windy conditions continue. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Wildfires are burning out of control across Northern and Southern California today. The state's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, admitted that its electrical equipment could have sparked one of those fires in Sonoma County. But the official cause has yet to be determined.

    William Brangham has the latest.

  • William Brangham:

    Once again, thousands of California firefighters are battling fast-moving blazes across the state. Driven by strong winds and dry conditions, the fires are forcing tens of thousands to evacuate their homes.

    Hundreds of schools were closed due to poor air quality and closed highways. The Kincade Fire, in Northern California's Sonoma County, doubled in size in less than 24 hours. It's already destroyed at least 49 structures and burned more than 21,000 acres. It's just 5 percent contained.

  • Mike Parkes:

    We absolutely are up against the clock. The winds that are predicted over the next couple days are currently expected to be worse than what we had just the other night.

  • William Brangham:

    Four hundred miles south, just north of Los Angeles, the Tick Fire has burned more than 4,000 acres and several subdivisions. Officials say another 10,000 structures are threatened. It too is just 5 percent contained.

    Two weeks ago, the California utility Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to hundreds of thousands of residents, trying to prevent high winds from knocking over power lines and sparking fires. Investigators believe that's what caused last year's deadly Camp Fire that killed 85.

    Yesterday, PG&E said a transmission tower malfunctioned near the site where the Kincade Fire began, a blaze which continues to roar across Northern California's wine country.

    California's governor, Democrat Gavin Newsom, blasted the utility company yesterday.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    It's about decades of mismanagement. It's about focusing on shareholders and dividends over you and members of the public. It's a story about greed. And they need to be held accountable.

  • William Brangham:

    PG&E warns they will have to cut power to more homes throughout the weekend. And if high winds continue, it could turn into the largest blackout yet for Californians, yet another new normal for a state grappling with the growing impacts of climate change.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

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