California declares state of emergency over wildfires

California's governor has declared a statewide emergency, with nearly 200,000 people ordered to flee their homes because of wildfires fuelled by historic winds.

Millions are without electricity after the largest utility cut power in some areas as a precaution to prevent other fires.

Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement that officials are deploying "every resource available" to respond to the wildfires, including a large blaze in northern California's wine country driven by powerful winds.

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The doors to the Soda Rock Winery burst open as it burns in Healdsburg, California on October 27, 2019. - Powerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said October 27, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the US state. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Flames shoot out a window as the Soda Rock Winery burns during the Kincade fire as flames race through Healdsburg, California on October 27, 2019. - Powerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said October 27, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the US state. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Firefighters survey the Soda Rock Winery as it burns during the Kincade fire as flames race through Healdsburg, California on October 27, 2019. - Powerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said October 27, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the US state. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Firefighters discuss how to approach the scene as a home burns near grape vines during the Kincade fire in Healdsburg, California on October 27, 2019. - Powerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said October 27, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the US state. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Fire Captain Rico Ramirez chats with firefighters as they assess the scene of a burning home during the Kincade fire in Healdsburg, California on October 27, 2019. - Powerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said October 27, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the US state. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
GEYSERVILLE, CA - OCT. 27: Jordan Loveland and Logan DeFranchi open a gate at the Oak RIdge Angus Ranch as the Kincade Fire rages Sunday morning, Oct. 27, 2019, on Highway 128 in the Alexander Valley east of Geyserville, Calif. (Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
GEYSERVILLE, CA - OCT. 27: A structure on Highway 128 goes up in flames after the Kincade Fire raged into the Alexander Valley, Sunday morning, Oct. 27, 2019, east of Geyserville, Calif. (Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
GEYSERVILLE, CA - OCT. 27: Soda Rock Winery on Highway 128 goes up in flames after the Kincade Fire raged into the Alexander Valley, Sunday morning, Oct. 27, 2019, east of Geyserville, Calif. (Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
Seen through grape vines, a home burns during the Kincade fire in Healdsburg, California on October 27, 2019. - Powerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said October 27, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the US state. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Fire and embers blow around a burnt utility truck during the Kincade fire in Healdsburg, California on October 27, 2019. - Powerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said October 27, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the US state. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
The Soda Rock Winery burns during the Kincade fire as flames race through Healdsburg, California on October 27, 2019. - Powerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said October 27, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the US state. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Fire explodes out the entrance of the Soda Rock Winery as it burns during the Kincade fire as flames race through Healdsburg, California on October 27, 2019. - Powerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said October 27, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the US state. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Fire fighters walk by a back fire they set in an effort to control the wildfire in Geyserville, California on October 26, 2019. 190,000 people are ordered to evacuate from Healdsburg, Windsor, Guerneville, Forestville, Occidental and several other communities as Kincade Fire grows to over 25,000 acres. (Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Power transmission tower is engulfed in back fire set by the firefighters in an effort to control the fire in Geyserville, California on October 26, 2019. 185,000 people are ordered to evacuate from Healdsburg, Windsor, Guerneville, Forestville, Occidental and several other communities as Kincade Fire grows to over 25,000 acres. (Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A row of vines smolder as a fire is seen at a distance during the wind-driven Kincade Fire in Healdsburg, California, U.S. October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A photographer walks in a cloud of smoke during the wind-driven Kincade Fire in Healdsburg, California, U.S. October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Embers fly around a burnt out truck during the wind-driven Kincade Fire in Healdsburg, California, U.S. October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A CalFire firefighter douses a hotspot during the wind-driven Kincade Fire in Healdsburg, California, U.S. October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
The wind driven Kincade fire burns near the town of Healdsburg, California, U.S., October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
The wind driven Kincade fire burns near the town of Healdsburg, California, U.S., October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Firefighters battle a fire, as a wind driven wildfire continues to burn in Canyon Country north of Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 25, 2019. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Smoke from a wind driven wild fire is seen in the hills of Canyon Country north of Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 24, 2019. REUTERS/ Gene Blevins
A burning structure is seen in the middle of a vineyard during the Kincade fire in Geyserville, California, U.S. October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A burning structure is seen in the middle of a vineyard during the Kincade fire in Geyserville, California, U.S. October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A burning structure collapses during the Kincade fire in Geyserville, California, U.S. October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Smoke from a second wildfire in the San Francisco Bay Area briefly halted traffic on a bridge.

The flames came dangerously close to homes in Vallejo.

In the south, a wildfire in the Santa Clarita area near Los Angeles has destroyed 18 structures, and threatened homes and critical infrastructure.

The biggest evacuation was in Sonoma County, where 180,000 people were told to pack up and leave.

The fear that the winds could blow embers and spread fire across a major road prompted authorities to expand evacuation orders that covered parts of Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 that was devastated by a wildfire two years ago.

The latest evacuation orders came after Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to 2.3 million people across 36 counties starting on Saturday evening.

"This is the largest evacuation that any of us ... can remember," the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office tweeted. "Take care of each other."

Sonoma County sheriff Mark Essick pleaded with residents in the evacuation zone that stretched from the wine country to Bodega Bay on the coast to get out immediately, citing the 24 lives lost when fire swept through the region in October 2017.

"Although I've heard people express concerns that we are evacuating too many people, I think those concerns are not valid at this point," Mr Essick said at a news conference, noting that the winds pushed fire towards the towns of Healdsburg and Windsor overnight.

Flames from the Kincade Fire consume Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg, California
Flames from the Kincade Fire consume Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg, California (Noah Berger/AP)

The Healdsburg area lost one of its historic attractions to the flames when embers carried by the winds sparked a blaze that engulfed the Soda Rock Winery, whose buildings included a general store and post office founded in 1869.

The winery was about 10 miles outside the town of Healdsburg.

The Kincade Fire began on Wednesday night and is only 10% contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Sunday.

It has burned 47 square miles (122 sq km) and has destroyed 79 structures.

Fire officials said about 30,000 firefighters took an aggressive stance overnight to keep the fire from spreading.

The fire was expected to be especially unwieldy on Sunday due to powerful winds gusting at up to 80mph on hillsides.

The wind event was expected to last until Monday, the National Weather Service said.

An air tanker drops retardant while battling the Kincade Fire in unincorporated Sonoma County, California
An air tanker drops retardant while battling the Kincade Fire in California (Noah BergerAP)

Fire officials said the winds could potentially spark spot fires up to a mile away and quickly explode.

They feared that if it crosses US 101, the fire could spread westward to an area that has not had a fire in 80 years.

Meanwhile, another blaze erupted on Sunday on both sides of a San Francisco Bay Area motorway and quickly spread, coming dangerously close to homes in Vallejo, which is 55 miles south of Geyserville where the massive Kincade Fire is burning.

A live broadcast on KGO-TV showed the fire on both sides of Interstate 80 near Vallejo and homeowners using hoses on a hillside to try to fight it.

Smoke from the wildfire forced a motorway to close and the evacuation of California State University Maritime Academy.

Evacuations also hit inmates at the North County Detention Facility in Santa Rosa and about 100 Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital patients.

To the south, a wildfire dubbed the Tick Fire destroyed 18 structures on Thursday in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles.

A hillside smoulders as firefighters light backfires to slow the spread of the Kincade Fire in unincorporated Sonoma County, California, near Geyservillle
A hillside smoulders as firefighters light backfires to slow the spread of the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, California (Noah Berger/AP)

Nearly all the 50,000 residents ordered to evacuate were allowed back home after Santa Ana winds began to ease.

What sparked the current fires is unknown, but PG&E said a 230,000-volt transmission line near Geyserville malfunctioned minutes before that blaze erupted on Wednesday night.

The utility acknowledged a tower malfunction prompted a strategy change for determining when to kill high-voltage transmission lines, Andrew Vesey, chief executive of Pacific Gas & Electric Co, said on Friday.

The possible link between the wine country fire and a PG&E transmission line contained grim parallels to last year when most of the town of Paradise burned, killing 85 people in the deadliest US blaze in a century.

State officials concluded a PG&E transmission line sparked that fire.

PG&E said this weekend's shut-off was affecting about 940,000 homes and businesses.

The city of San Francisco was not in line for a blackout amid shut-offs for most of the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, the wine country to the north and the Sierra foothills.

Ruby waits for his owner to evacuate as a wildfire called the Kincade Fire threatens the area near Healdsburg, California
Ruby waits for his owner to evacuate as a wildfire threatens the area near Healdsburg (Ethan Swope/AP)

Many residents facing blackouts had barely recovered from a previous shut-off that cost some businesses tens of thousands of dollars in losses.

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