California's largest utility company began to shut off power to millions of people as hundreds of firefighters struggled to contain wind-fueled wildfires Tuesday ahead of stronger wind gusts expected later in the day.
Pacific Gas & Electric said the latest round of blackouts will affect some 1.5 million people in 29 counties in the northern half of the state.
The blackouts are aimed at preventing wildfires sparked by equipment damaged by strong winds, the most recent of which broke out Monday near the Getty Museum on the west side of Los Angeles and has since grown to more than 250 hectares, burning down at least eight homes. The area is where some of the city's most expensive houses are located. The fire forced thousands to evacuate.
Basketball star LeBron James, who lives in the area, said he was evacuated with his family, but had difficulties finding a nearby hotel with vacancies.
"Finally found a place to accommodate us!" the Los Angeles Lakers player wrote on Twitter. "Crazy night man!"
The fire burned Monday close to a major highway Interstate 405 and commuters posted pictures on social media showing hills around the road on flames. Fire officials are monitoring the threat of low humidity and high winds over the next few days that will make fire-fighting efforts more difficult.
Officials at the Getty Museum said the fire has not come close to the building, which is made of thick stone walls to protect it from flames.
California firefighters are simultaneously battling several blazes in the state, including a large fire in Sonoma County in the north that his home to many of the state's famous wineries.
Fire officials are hopeful that, even as winds pick up again Tuesday, the days that follow will bring what forecasters said would be much more favorable conditions to allow crews to bring the Kincade Fire under containment.
The blaze covered more than 30,000 hectares, was 15% contained and had destroyed more than 120 structures by late Monday.
Sonoma County officials let some people return to their homes after lifting evacuation orders, and said they understand the anxiety and frustration of those still waiting to get back into areas deemed to be still too dangerous.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said the White House has been in contact with state and local officials in California, including Governor Gavin Newsom.
"Federal resources have been made available and we continue to work with the governor and his staff to determine if additional support is necessary. The president will continue to monitor the situation," he said.
California is commonly hit by numerous wildfires at this time of year, with the combination of low humidity and strong winds combining to create favorable conditions for fire growth.
The California utility company Pacific Gas & Electric said Monday power lines may have sparked two wildfires last weekend in the San Francisco Bay area. The utility shut off power to nearly one million homes and businesses across Northern California, some with little notice, as part of a strategy to prevent surges from downed power lines sparking more fires. The company said Monday it had restored service to 325,000 of those customers, but would be cutting power to 600,000 in a fresh round of shutoffs Tuesday.
Businesses are angry that the power cuts have cost them tens of thousands of dollars, and residents bitterly complain about the inconvenience of going days without electricity, especially those who need power for lifesaving medical devices.
California authorities blame PG&E lines for sparking last year's wildfires that killed 85 people and destroyed entire towns. The utility, facing billions of dollars in lawsuits, was forced to declare bankruptcy earlier this year.
Newsom, who had criticized the utilities, said the state will spend $75 million to help residents and businesses deal with the power cuts. He said the state has a lot of work to do toward putting electrical wires underground and to manage forests in order to prevent both wildfire damage and the need to shut off the power.