With ten wildfires burning in California, a new blaze has engulfed homes in San Bernardino, as Gray Davis, the former governor of the state, insists that in time technology can turn the crisis around.

The Hillside Fire started sometime after midnight on Wednesday night in vegetation in the hills above San Bernardino and is now threatening homes in the area.

At least two homes were on fire in the northern part of San Bernardino before dawn on Thursday with hundreds of firefighters on the scene who were joined by firefighting aircraft as soon as the sun rose.

490 homes and 1,300 people have been evacuated in the area and overall 17 million people in Southern California are under red flag warnings.

Meanwhile, just down the road, another blaze erupted in the Jurupa Valley in Riverside County, which has destroyed three homes.

The Getty fire in Los Angeles, which has been ablaze since Monday is threatening more than 7,000 homes, although officials are saying it is now 40% contained.   While the Easy Fire in the Simi Valley about 40 miles out of Los Angeles, has threatened 6,500 homes and forced 30,000 people to evacuate.

Winds of up to 70 mph, as well as hot, humid conditions, have meant that fires have spread quickly, but the electricity companies have also admitted that their power lines might have caused some of the fires. 

The Southern Californian Edison sub-transmission line may have started the Simi Valley fire the company has admitted. The company also said Tuesday that its equipment was most probably the cause of the Woolsey Fire last November.

North of San Francisco, the Kincade fire, which has been burning for a week has destroyed 77,000 acres of Sonoma County and more than 130 homes have been destroyed.

In Northern California, the Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has also indicated that its equipment may have been involved in starting three fires and reports are circulating that videos are showing sparking power lines at the Oakley and Bethel Island fires. 

Over recent weeks, PG&E has been under scrutiny for the role its electricity wires played in last year’s Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and over the last few weeks they have been cutting electricity in northern and central California to try and prevent equipment sparking and igniting a blaze.

Technology Can Help Prevent Fires

Windstorms, which have been seen over the past couple of weeks, are not uncommon in California during Autumn and the current governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state-wide emergency, while power companies have been cutting power to prevent downed and sparking electricity lines from causing more fires.

However, the former governor Gray Davis believes that small, high definition cameras are an important new tool that can live stream to firefighters in fire-prone areas during high-risk periods. PG&E plans to have 600 such cameras installed by 2022.

Meanwhile, PG&E has also warned its customers that they can expect another 10 years of blackouts and power outages, as it upgrades its electrical equipment to make it safer and less prone to sparking. 

Edward Cowley