New fire in California, two dead and thousands of inhabitants threatened

Los Angeles, USA | AFP | Tuesday 06/09/2022 – At least two people died Tuesday in California and thousands more were asked to evacuate their homes because of a new large fire in the Los Angeles area, currently subject to a sudden heat wave.

Another person was burned and had to be hospitalized, according to the provisional report communicated by the firefighters, who asked the inhabitants of more than 3,000 homes to evacuate their homes, while the authorities feared having to come to cuts. current, the electricity network floundering under demand.

Several buildings were also destroyed by this fire which started Monday near the city of Hemet in the southeast of Los Angeles and has already ravaged more than 1,600 hectares. Nearby schools have been closed.

The fire “spread very quickly even before the firefighters arrived on the scene”, explained a spokesperson for the fire department on Twitter.

An investigation has been opened to determine the origin of the fire. Meanwhile, utility Southern California Edison reported “circuit activity” in the area when the fire started.

The company has already had to pay billions of dollars in the past for causing fires in California, sometimes fatal, because of its failing infrastructure. It has pledged to renovate its aging power lines, cutting surrounding vegetation and burying cables to reduce the risk of fire starting.

This fire comes as California faces, like parts of Nevada and Arizona, another day of extreme temperatures.

A heat dome has settled over the region, pushing the mercury to climb up to 43°C in some places, and the phenomenon is expected to continue until Thursday. Meteorologists expect temperature records to be broken during the week.

Coupled with the devastating drought that has hit the American West for two decades, this brutal heat creates the ideal conditions for the outbreak of fires.

Last week, another fire, called “Route Fire”, had already destroyed several thousand hectares in the hinterland of Los Angeles.

power outages

This heat wave also causes disturbances on the Californian electricity network. Its regulator, California ISO, has issued several alerts to ask households to limit their consumption from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in order to avoid saturation.

Californians are therefore asked to avoid recharging their electric vehicles during this time slot, not to set the air conditioning below 25.5°C and to refrain from using their main energy-consuming equipment.

Despite these exceptional measures, California ISO does not rule out having to resort to localized power outages, given the exceptional temperatures expected on Tuesday.

As California “faces the hottest day of this record-breaking heat wave, the condition of the grid will worsen,” the regulator said in a statement.

“If necessary, ISO may order suppliers to initiate rotating power outages (controlled and distributed over different areas, editor’s note) to maintain the stability of the electricity network”, he added.

In the middle of the day, all the solar panels generally provide one third of the electricity in California. But when the sun goes down, the supply of photovoltaic energy is abruptly interrupted, leaving the other sources of electricity to take over – which is a problem in the early evening, when the heat of the day is not still falling, pushing demand via air conditioning.

Last week, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom temporarily lifted restrictions so fossil-fuel power plants could produce more.

Recurring heat waves are an unmistakable marker of global warming – and these heat waves are set to multiply, lengthen and intensify further, say scientists.

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