Photos show the raging destruction of California's wildfires

Noah Berger / APWoodbridge firefighter Joe Zurilgen passes a burning home as the Kincade Fire rages in Healdsburg, California on October 27, 2019.
  • The Kincade Fire has burned 66,000 acres in Sonoma County, California, since it ignited on Wednesday. A force of at least 4,000 firefighting personnel are battling the blaze, which is 5% contained.
  • Utility company PG&E told state regulators that a broken cable may have been involved in sparking the blaze. PG&E cut off power for 965,000 customers over the weekend to avoid further risk.
  • Meanwhile, the Getty Fire in Los Angeles broke out Monday morning and has forced thousands to evacuate.
  • Here’s what these fires look like on the ground.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

California is burning.

The Kincade Fire, which broke out in Sonoma County on October 23, has burned more than 66,000 acres – a chunk of land the size of Sacramento, the state’s capital city.

The blaze has forced nearly 200,000 people to flee as strong Diablo winds and dry conditions enabled it to grow rapidly. More than 4,000 firefighting personnel are battling the flames, but the fire is still just 5% contained.

On Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency.

PG&E, the state’s largest utility company, cut power to about 965,000 customers to reduce the risk that sparking wires could ignite more fires. Company officials told state regulators last week that the Kincade Fire may have been caused by a broken jumper cable on one of the company’s transmission towers in Geyserville.

Here’s what the situation looks like on the ground.


Powerful winds are fanning the Kincade Fire. Evacuees have fled a large area around Sonoma County, from Mercuryville to Bodega Bay.

Josh Edelson / AFP / GettyFlames consume a home during the Kincade fire as flames race through Healdsburg, California on October 27, 2019.

The Kincade Fire is by far the biggest blaze in California right now, but more than a dozen others are burning, too. In southern California, the Tick Fire in Santa Clarita Valley has burned 4,600 acres and is now 70% contained.

Noah Berger / APFlames from the Kincade Fire consume a truck in Healdsburg, California, on October 27, 2019.

Meanwhile, the Getty Fire broke out Monday morning in West Los Angeles and has already prompted thousands to evacuate.

Gene Blevins / ReutersA firefighting helicopter flies over the Getty Fire as it burns in the hills west of the 405 freeway in West Los Angeles, California, October 28, 2019.

Wildfires are a natural part of California’s yearly weather cycle, but they’re getting worse. Nine of the 10 biggest fires in the state’s history have occurred since 2003.

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Last year’s Camp Fire was especially devastating — it killed 86 people and burned 18,800 structures in November.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Sparking PG&E wires were responsible for that blaze, the deadliest in California history. The company reached an $US11 billion settlement with victims last month, amid bankruptcy proceedings.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

PG&E’s latest power cuts — the third round this month — are the company’s largest-ever intentional outage, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Many customers will likely remain without electricity until Wednesday.

Philip Pacheco / AFP / GettyA back fire set by firefighters burns a hillside near PG&E power lines during firefighting operations to battle the Kincade Fire in Healdsburg, California on October 26, 2019.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle


On Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. At a press conference, Newsom blamed PG&E for years of greed and mismanagement. “We should not have to be here,” he said.

Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via GettyGov. Gavin Newsom tours a home destroyed in the Kincade Fire with Cal Fire officials, October 25, 2019, in Geyserville, California.

So far, the Kincade fire has destroyed at least 96 buildings and damaged another 16.

Noah Berger / APVines surround a burning building as the Kincade Fire burns through the Jimtown community in Sonoma County, California, on October 24, 2019.

More than 4,000 firefighting personnel have been battling that fire.

Philip Pacheco / AFP / GettyFirefighters battle hot spots and conduct structure protection in Windsor, California on October 27, 2019.

Officials are concerned the Kincade Fire could jump across Highway 101, into land where no fire has burned since the 1940s. The at-risk area includes agricultural fields and old Redwood forests.

Stephen Lam / GettyVehicles travel South along Highway 101 as residents evacuate towns and cities in anticipation of the expected wind event on October 26, 2019 in Windsor, California.

Sources: The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times


Strong winds makes the fires unpredictable and hard to control. In northern California, gusts of up to 102 mph were recorded over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

Stephen Lam / ReutersA burning structure is seen during the Kincade Fire in Windsor, California, October 27, 2019.

Source: National Weather Service


Jonathan Cox, division chief of California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), told the Los Angeles Times that the fires could change direction at any moment. Residents outside evacuation zones should still be ready to go, he said.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / APA firefighters gets in position to hose down flames as a home burns in the Getty Fire, October 28, 2019, in Los Angeles.

Source: Los Angeles Times


In one case on Sunday, gusts even carried an ember from a small fire in the Bay Area about a mile, across the water of the Carquinez Strait in Vallejo.

Josh Edelson / AFP / GettyA photographer takes photos amidst a shower of embers as wind and flames rip through the area during the Kincade Fire near Geyserville, California on October 24, 2019.

Source: The New York Times


In a press conference, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned residents to heed evacuation orders: “The only thing you cannot replace is you and your family,” he said.

Noah Berger / APA line of fire snakes along a hillside as firefighters light backfires to slow the spread of the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, California on October 26, 2019.

Throughout California, helicopters are dropping water on the various blazes, while air tankers release fire-retardant chemicals to slows or stops the flames’ spread.

Josh Edelson / AFP / GettyAn aircraft helps fight the Saddleridge fire by dropping fire retardant along a ridge in Newhall, California on October 11, 2019.

California also relies on more prisoners to fight fires than any other state. Inmate firefighters are paid $US2 per day, and another $US1 per hour when fighting active fires.

Philip Pacheco / AFP / GettyA crew of inmate firefighters takes a break during firefighting operations to battle the Kincade Fire in Healdsburg, California on October 26, 2019.

Source: The New York Times


Individual fires can’t be directly attributed to climate change, but warm, dry conditions increase their likelihood.

Christian Monterrosa / APA man walks past a burning home during the Getty fire, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Los Angeles, Calif.

In the western US, fire season’s length has increased by 78 days over the last 50 years.

Josh Edelson / AFP / GettyEmbers blow in the wind as a tree trunk glows during the Kincade fire near Geyserville, California on October 24, 2019.

Source: Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions


Large wildfires in the US burn more than twice the area they did in 1970. In California specifically, the portion of land that burns from wildfires every year has increased more than five-fold since 1972.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / APA firefighter tries to hose down flames as a home burns in the Getty Fire area in Los Angeles, October 28, 2019.

Winds in California were expected to weaken on Monday, which could help firefighters make headway. But they may pick up again starting midday Tuesday.

Ethan Swope / APFirefighters from San Mateo work to extinguish flames from the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, California on October 27, 2019.

Source: Reuters


California’s 10-day forecast does not include any rain.

Philip Pacheco / AFP / GettySmokes rises from a back fire set by fire fighters near a hillside near PG&E power lines during firefighting operations to battle the Kincade Fire in Healdsburg, California on October 26, 2019.

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