With California Ablaze, Firefighters Strain to Keep Up

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LOS ANGELES — At one smoldering end of California, Capt. Alex Arriola and hundreds of other firefighters charged up flaming hillsides in the middle of the night Monday to battle a brush fire that exploded on the tinder-dry edge of West Los Angeles.

As helicopters doused the hills to protect the priceless artworks at the nearby Getty Center and homes went up in flames, the fire crews on the ground began attacking the blaze to keep it from leaping across the street and taking out other multimillion-dollar houses.

“It was pretty much chaos,” said Captain Arriola, a 34-year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Four hundred miles to the north, an army of 4,150 firefighters and support teams raced to take advantage of a brief lull in the scorching winds to contain a fast-growing wildfire that has spread across thousands of acres. As a yellow haze curtained the barns and pumpkin farms of Sonoma County on Monday, firefighters sat through briefings before trudging back into a moonscape of charred homes and smoking roads.

The two blazes raging through dry vegetation at opposite ends of California fueled fears that the state’s vicious wildfire season was rapidly pushing its limit, straining the resources of fire departments that are already spread out battling 16 fires across the state and pushing fire crews beyond the brink of exhaustion.

“It’s all starting to blend together,” said Joe Augino, a firefighter with the Arcadia Fire Department in Southern California who had just finished battling a wildfire in the canyons north of Los Angeles last week when his company was summoned eight hours north to help fight the Kincade fire in Sonoma County.

With no rain in the forecast, a brief break in the whipping winds on Monday offered Mr. Augino’s crew and other firefighters a tiny but crucial window to try to gain control over the fast-spreading fires. But forecasters warned that the respite would not last and that wind gusts would grow to 50 or 60 miles per hour by Tuesday.

On a winding road near the front lines of the Kincade fire, where about 156,000 people remained under mandatory evacuation orders on Monday, Mr. Augino and his fellow firefighters were extinguishing spot fires with water and hand tools.

The Kincade fire grew to more than 74,000 acres and was 15 percent contained on Monday night, according to Cal Fire. California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, cut power to millions of people as the fires approached over the weekend, and Gov. Gavin Newsom said that 880,000 were still without power, adding to the strain and anger as residents search for safe shelters and answers about whether their homes are endangered.

PG&E, whose equipment is suspected as the cause of the Kincade fire, also told state regulators on Monday that its lines, poles or transformers might have been involved in three other blazes.

On the ground, firefighters have coalesced from rural and urban California, from northern and southern corners of the state to battle the Kincade, one of the many wildfires that are being mad

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