Firefighters struggle against massive, wind-whipped California wildfire

About 180,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders

Crews lost ground on Sunday against a wind-driven wildfire that has blackened a wide swath of California’s picturesque wine country and driven 180,000 people from their homes as they hoped for a break in the hot, dry weather.

About 3,000 people were battling the Kinkade Fire, the worst of more than a dozen major blazes that have damaged or destroyed nearly 400 structures, and prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a statewide emergency.

“All hands are focusing on the Kincade,” Newsom told reporters after meeting residents at an evacuation center in the Sonoma County city of Petaluma, calling that blaze “the most stubborn challenge we face.”

Newsom said its containment had “slipped” to about half of an earlier estimate of 10 percent, with more than 50,000 acres (20,230 hectares) burned, as nearly 90-mph (145-kph) gusts whipped flames toward communities as far south as northern Santa Rosa.

About 180,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders, including the towns of Healdsburg and Windsor, north of Santa Rosa, which stand in the path of the flames.

The Kincade, which has ravaged nearly 80 sq miles (207 sq km) of wine country, has burned down 79 structures since it broke out on Wednesday but no casualties have been reported.

Investigators have not yet said what they believed caused the blaze, although it ignited near a broken wire on a Pacific Gas & Electric transmission tower.

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