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Wildfires in California and other western states are getting worse every year, but is climate change all to blame? We explain.
Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

California’s streak of extremely critical fire conditions will persist Tuesday, forcing thousands of residents to monitor blazes for flare-ups driven by gusty winds. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned Santa Ana winds that began Monday night could rapidly spread wildfires through a region that was already facing ongoing evacuation orders from the Getty Fire, which was just 5% contained. 

Gusts could reach as high as 70 mph from late Tuesday into early Thursday, said Evan Bentley, fire weather forecaster at the Storm Prediction Center, and reignite embers from fires that appeared to be extinguished. This round of Santa Ana winds is expected to be among the strongest this fall, he said. 

Rain won’t be bringing relief any time soon, either.

“There’s no end in sight for the dry conditions in California at this point,” Bentley said.

In Northern California, forecasters expect winds to reach 50 mph from Tuesday morning into Wednesday evening. The threat isn’t as severe as last weekend’s wind event, when gusts howled near 100 mph, but it could still fan the Kincade Fire, which has consumed 74,000 acres. 

Firefighters battling the blaze in Sonoma County, best known for its wine production, had reached 15% containment Monday night. Crews were cautiously optimistic, said CalFire Division Chief Jonathan Cox in an evening news conference.  

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“As the containment goes up, the more confidence grows. But I would say we are not out of the woods yet,” Cox said. 

Expecting the worse, Pacific Gas & Electric said it will shut off power for about 605,000 customers in 29 counties Tuesday and Wednesday to reduce wildfire risk. The outages will mark the beleaguered utility’s fourth Public Safety Power Shutoff this month, and may overlap with one started last weekend. 

The utility on Monday restored power to about a third of 1 million left in the dark, but said weather conditions may prevent some customers from getting electricity back before the next outage. 

Is this the ‘new normal’?: With raging fires, high winds and blackouts, California is living a disaster movie.

About 20,000 Southern California Edison customers were also without power Monday night, mostly in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The utility warned another 205,000 customers that crews may cut their power as conditions worsen this week.

Affected and at-risk customers included those who were forced to evacuate recent fires, including the Tick Fire near Santa Clarita in northern Los Angeles County. That blaze has charred 4,615 acres but is 82% contained.

Other Los Angeles County fires that have yet to be fully contained include the Saddleridge Fire, which is at 97% containment and 8,800 acres after starting about three weeks ago. 

The Getty Fire, which ignited early Monday, has consumed 618 acres and threatens 10,000 residences.