The Slatest

A Chunk of California Is Still in the Dark or on Fire

A sign that says "PG&E Turn Our Power On!" by the side of a highway.
People in Calistoga, California, aren’t thrilled with the blackouts.
Josh Edelson/Getty Images

At least two people have died and tens of thousands have been ordered to evacuate as wildfires, whipped up by powerful Santa Ana winds, raged in Southern California on Thursday night and into Friday.

One of the deaths was caused by a fire in a mobile home park east of Los Angeles on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. The other occurred when a man went into cardiac arrest at the scene of a wildfire in Los Angeles late Thursday. Around 100,000 people near the northern edge of the city were ordered to evacuate.

The 800-acre Sandalwood fire east of Los Angeles is now 10 percent contained, according to the AP. It has destroyed 74 structures, many of which were homes. There were at least seven other active wildfires burning in California on Thursday and Friday.

Meanwhile, in Northern California, the high risk of wildfires caused the embattled utility company PG&E to shut off power to an area that included an estimated 2 million residents. While hospitals could rely on backup generators, residents with medical devices at home were put at risk, parents scrambled to find care for their children when schools closed, drivers were unable to buy gas, and financially stressed residents worried about the groceries that would spoil. As Slate’s April Glaser noted, frustrated Californians feel that this blackout was unnecessary, caused by PG&E’s own failure to maintain its power lines.

PG&E was found responsible for 17 of the 21 major wildfires in California in 2017. It was also found responsible for the 2018 Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise and left 86 people dead. It was the deadliest wildfire in California history.

The blackouts in central and Northern California began Wednesday. According to CNN, roughly 300,000 people still have no power.