AP NEWS

The Latest: Man accused of arson in California wildfire

October 31, 2019
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Firefighters work to prevent flames from reaching nearby homes as a helicopter drops water during the Easy Fire, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
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Firefighters work to prevent flames from reaching nearby homes as a helicopter drops water during the Easy Fire, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on California wildfires (all times local):

6:20 p.m.

Authorities say a man was arrested and accused of arson after a crew responded to a report of a wildfire in Northern California.

A CalFire statement said engine crews were able to quickly contain the small fire in the Sonoma County community of Geyserville and identified a potential suspect.

CalFire law enforcement officers arrested 25-year-old Andrew Craig Faulkner on accusations of arson.

The statement did not give other details, and a CalFire spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Authorities reported progress Wednesday in battling the Kincade fire in Sonoma County that started last week outside of Geyserville and forced the evacuation of the entire community, home to about 900 people. As the fire exploded in size, over 180,000 people were ordered to leave the area. Most have been allowed to return.

5:45 p.m.

Los Angeles authorities have lifted most evacuations from a wildfire in the city’s Brentwood area that destroyed a dozen homes and damaged five others.

Fire officials said as of Wednesday evening only a few square blocks to the west of Interstate 405 remain under mandatory evacuation orders.

Some 10,000 people fled after the blaze broke out Monday and eventually charred 1.2 square miles (3 square kilometers) of dry brush.

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The cause is under investigation.

Meanwhile about 26,000 people remain evacuated from ranch properties and suburbs as crews try to tame a 2.3-square-mile (6-square-kilometer) blaze near Simi Valley northwest of Los Angeles.

Firefighters tamped down a half-dozen other small fires across Southern California as gusty Santa Ana winds roared through the region.

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5 p.m.

More than 500,000 people who rely on Pacific Gas & Electric were still without power across Northern California, while about 250,000 people in Southern California were in the dark as utilities shut power in an effort to prevent more wildfires.

California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci told a news conference that as of Wednesday afternoon there were still PG&E customers without power, amid the third blackout in a week.

Sonoma County officials, meanwhile, lifted nearly all the outstanding evacuations in place for the wildfire there, leaving fewer than 6,000 people out of their homes. At the height of the fire, more than 180,000 had been ordered to leave.

Ghilarducci said in Southern California, about 55,000 people who get power from San Diego Gas & Electric were in the dark. Southern California Edison has blackouts in effect for 71,000 customers, about 180,000 people.

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3:15 p.m.

Southern California Edison says a huge wildfire that has forced thousands to evacuate broke out near its equipment northwest of Los Angeles.

Edison spokeswoman Caroline Aoyagi says the cause of Wednesday’s wind-driven fire in Simi Valley has not been determined.

She says the utility has filed a required report with state regulators acknowledging flames were sparked within its service territory near a sub-transmission line, which was energized at the time.

Fire officials say they’re investigating the cause of the Easy Fire. It has chewed through brush and trees near suburbs, horse ranches and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

About 7,000 homes are under mandatory evacuation orders.

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2:10 p.m.

Authorities are gaining more control over a wildfire that prompted evacuations in Southern California.

State fire Capt. Richard Cordova says firefighters are making progress against the 200-acre blaze burning 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of Los Angeles in Jurupa Valley.

But he says flare-ups are common as unpredictable winds sweep the region. The fire is 5% contained.

Cordova says one person has been hospitalized in unknown condition after being evacuated from a health care facility. No homes have burned.

Authorities ordered people at several ranch properties and two mobile home parks to evacuate and closed a highway. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Strong winds have whipped up blazes at both ends of the state and led utilities to cut off power to prevent such fires for a week.

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1 p.m.

About 7,000 homes are under evacuation orders as a wind-driven wildfire burns northwest of Los Angeles.

Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub says about 26,000 people are affected by the orders, most of which are mandatory.

The fire erupted just after 6 a.m. Wednesday near the hilltop Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near the communities of Simi Valley and Moorpark.

County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen says it was “about the worst time it could happen” because of strong winds and “fuels that were ripe and ready to carry fire.”

The fire has moved rapidly between suburban tracts on sparsely developed lands that include small horse ranches and some agriculture.

Lorenzen says some outbuildings have been destroyed and there is a report a possible home burning.

Incident Commander Chad Cook says firefighters made a successful stand protecting the Reagan Library, but he cautions that the entire burned area is still considered to be a threat.

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12:20 p.m.

Evacuations are underway as winds spread a wildfire in the inland region of Southern California.

The Riverside County Fire Department says a blaze in Jurupa Valley 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of Los Angeles has grown to 50 acres Wednesday.

A KABC-TV video shows elderly people being taken from a health care facility on wheelchairs and gurneys as smoke swirls.

The fire department says two mobile home parks are also under evacuation orders and the State Route 60 has been closed down.

In Los Angeles County, firefighters report they have stopped a fire in the city of Calabasas, not far from where a large wildfire is threatening thousands of homes in eastern Ventura County.

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12:15 p.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric says 365,000 customers — or approximately 900,000 people — are still without lights as the utility begins restoring power across Northern California.

PG&E said in a statement Wednesday that it had issued a weather “all clear” for nearly all the areas affected by its latest power outage that started Tuesday, after strong winds that forecast overnight did not materialize.

The blackout was aimed at preventing electrical equipment from being damaged by wind-whipped branches or toppling and sparking wildfires.

PG&E said the outage starting Tuesday cut power to 516,000 customers — or 1.2 million people — in parts of 22 counties.

A few days earlier, a blackout that started Saturday left about 973,000 customers or about 2.5 million people in 38 counties without power.

It was not clear how many people were affected by overlapping outages.

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11:20 a.m.

More fires have erupted in Southern California as powerful Santa Ana winds sweeping the region fan the flames of large blaze northwest of Los Angeles in the Simi Valley area.

About a dozen miles (19 kilometers) from the Simi Valley fire, Los Angeles County firefighters are working Wednesday to contain a small fire on hills in the city of Calabasas. Residents of the nearby community of Hidden Hills are being told to be prepared in case they are ordered to evacuate.

In the inland region east of Los Angeles, the Riverside County Fire Department says a rapidly spreading blaze in Jurupa Valley has grown to at least 10 acres (4 hectares) amid 20 mph (32 kph) winds late Wednesday morning.

Earlier, Riverside County firefighters halted the spread of a fire that burned three outbuildings and two vehicles in the semirural community of Nuevo amid 40 mph (64 kph) winds.

The Simi Valley fire has grown to 1,300 acres (526 hectares) and is threatening 6,500 homes.

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11 a.m.

As a wildfire raged in Southern California’s Simi Valley area, thirteen-year-old Troy Mishkanian says he scooped his six pet fish from their tank and plopped them into cooking pots.

Then his family fled their home in the in city Thousand Oaks home threatened by the brush fire that started just before dawn Wednesday.

Troy, his sister, Megan, and their parents are among 75 evacuees at the Red Cross shelter at the Thousand Oaks Community Center.

Police officers who came to their front door told them to leave. Family members grabbed passports, important documents and some clothes. They stored the fish beneath their car’s seats and left.

They did not see flames but they saw and smelled smoke as they evacuated their home for the first time.

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10:30 a.m.

A wind-driven wildfire burning northwest of Los Angeles has grown to 1,300 acres (526 hectares).

The Ventura County Fire Department says the blaze is threatening 6,500 homes.

The fire erupted before dawn Wednesday between the cities of Simi Valley and Moorpark, It has been spread by strong Santa Ana winds.

Flames have approached the hilltop Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, but a spokeswoman says no damage has occurred.

Helicopters and airplanes are dropping water and fire retardant as some 800 firefighters battle the flames on the ground.

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9:20 a.m.

A spokeswoman for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California says the complex has not been damaged by a nearby wildfire that has grown to more than 970 acres (392 hectares).

Melissa Giller says the fire came within about 30 yards (27 meters) of the complex Wednesday morning but that it has been protected by aerial water drops and a firebreak, a gap of cleared vegetation that functions as a barrier to stop wildfires.

Giller says a herd of a goats is brought in annually to eat the vegetation and create the firebreak.

The fire erupted before dawn as strong winds hit Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles.

Flames are pushing through sparsely developed hills between suburban tracts. Horses are being evacuated from small ranches.

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9:15 a.m.

Several dozen people fleeing the Southern California wildfire have arrived at an evacuation shelter set up in a community center in the city of Thousand Oaks.

The brush fire broke out just before dawn Wednesday near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in the Simi Valley area north of Los Angeles.

Red Cross spokesman Tom Horan says people are confused and scared as they arrive at the shelter, some wearing masks.

They registered with shelter staff amid the banging of cots being set up and food and water being carried inside.

Horan says the shelter can accommodate about 380 evacuees during the day and about 180 overnight. Pets must be kept outside in crates.

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8:30 a.m.

Officials say a new wind-driven wildfire in Southern California near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library has grown to more than 400 acres (162 hectares) since it started just before dawn.

The Ventura County Fire Department says the fire is being fanned Wednesday morning by strong Santa Ana winds.

The fire erupted between the cities of Simi Valley and Moorpark, northwest of Los Angeles.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered and multiple school districts have announced school closings.

Firefighting aircraft are dropping water and fire retardant on the blaze.

A library spokeswoman has said firefighters are protecting the complex.

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7:50 am.

Fire officials are reporting progress in their battle against a massive wildfire in wine country north of San Francisco.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says the 120-square-mile (310-square-kilometer) fire in Sonoma County is 30% contained early Wednesday. That’s up from 15 percent containment Tuesday evening.

The latest damage assessments show that 206 structures were destroyed, including 94 homes. Another 40 structures have been damaged, including 27 homes.

Most of the 90,000 structures still threatened by the fire are homes.

In Southern California, firefighters are battling a new wind-driven fire near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library northwest of Los Angeles.

A library spokeswoman says firefighters are protecting the facility and that it is safe.

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7:20 a.m.

A spokeswoman for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library says it is being protected by firefighters as a wind-driven wildfire burns nearby in hills northwest of Los Angeles.

Melissa Giller said Wednesday morning that the hilltop library in the city of Simi Valley is safe as the fire burns between Simi Valley and Moorpark, where evacuations have been ordered.

Giller says the portion of the library closest to the fire is a pavilion housing a former Air Force One aircraft.

The portion of the library housing archives faces away from the fire.

Giller says hundreds of goats are brought in each year to the library grounds as a fire prevention method so they can eat away vegetation that can fuel wildfires on the undeveloped portions of the 300-acre (121-hectare) property.

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6:40 a.m.

A large new wildfire has erupted in Southern California as strong Santa Ana winds blow through the region and officials ordered mandatory evacuations.

Television images showed the fire burning before dawn Wednesday in the Simi Valley area about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Ventura County officials have tweeted that the brush fire is large without providing more details on its size and say it is burning between the cities of Simi Valley and Moorpark.

Mandatory evacuations were issued but officials did not say how many people were subject to the orders.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is in the vicinity.

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6 a.m.

Fire danger warnings blanket a large swath of California because of gusty winds and extremely dry air.

The National Weather Service says Santa Ana winds developed more slowly than expected in Southern California but strong gusts topping 50 mph (80 kph) are being reported early Wednesday.

So far, the winds have stayed away from the section of Los Angeles that burned Monday in the Getty fire, where there’s concern that smoldering embers could be carried away by gusts and start new fires.

In Northern California, winds are beginning to decline, but forecasters warn that fire danger remains.

The weather service says winds topped out near 70 mph (112 kph) at the highest elevations north of San Francisco Bay, where firefighters are battling the destructive Kincade Fire in the Sonoma County wine country.

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10:43 p.m.

Californians are facing winds, wildfires and darkness from yet another power outage for more than 1 million people.

Pacific Gas & Electric is blacking out about 1.5 million people in some 30 counties to prevent high winds from toppling power lines and sparking fires. It’s the third shutoff in a week.

A fire in northern wine country and another in the wealthy Brentwood area of Los Angeles have burned dozens of homes. Both were driven by strong winds.

The Sonoma County area was hit by gusts of 30 mph (48 kph) or more Tuesday but firefighters report little growth in the blaze, with winds were expected to ease Wednesday.

But in the south, forecasters say hot, dry Santa Ana winds through Thursday could bring gusts of 50 to 80 mph (128.7 kph) at times.