(Bloomberg) -- Fanned by hot, dry winds, wildfires north of San Francisco and near Los Angeles have forced the evacuation of more than 215,000 people, including in Malibu, the coastal enclave of the rich and famous.
The fires have grown to about 131,000 acres overall and threaten to destroy tens of thousands of structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. More than 50,000 homes and business have lost power. At least nine people were killed in the northern fire, according to local officials.
The so-called Camp Fire in Northern California has now destroyed more structures than any other wildfire in state history, according to data compiled by Cal Fire.
President Trump, in Paris to celebrate the end of World War I, attributed the spread of the flames to what he called gross mismanagement of the forests.
Authorities are investigating electrical equipment as one of several possible causes of that blaze, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said. A PG&E transmission line in the area went offline 15 minutes before the blaze was first reported, the company said in a regulatory filing. The company also reported finding a damaged transmission tower near where investigators say the fire began. And firefighter radio transmissions reviewed by the San Jose Mercury News included calls about downed power lines.
State investigators linked equipment owned by PG&E to 17 fires that burned in the state last year. Shares of PG&E, which provides electricity in Northern California, fell more than 16 percent, the most since 2002. Edison International, which serves much of the southern part of the state, dropped 12 percent.
Southern California Edison said it has no information on the cause of the fires in Ventura County, spokesman Robert Laffoon-Villegas said in an emailed statement.
In Southern California, two separate fires have consumed more than 40,000 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Malibu -- which has been home to Hollywood stars including Tom Hanks and Dustin Hoffman -- was evacuated after flames swept south across the Santa Monica Mountains, toward the sea.
The Ventura blazes erupted days after a gunman opened fire in a crowded country music bar in the county, killing 12. "Many of our first responders haven’t slept," Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks said during a news conference in Thousand Oaks, where the shooting took place. "We are still reeling, but we are also very resilient."
A separate fire in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park burned 30 acres, spurring officials to begin evacuating animals from the city’s zoo.
Meanwhile, decreasing winds in Northern California are lowering the risk that a fire burning near Chico, which has already torched about 90,000 acres, will continue to spread. Still, the blaze forced 52,000 residents to evacuate from several nearby towns.
Smoke from that fire stretched into San Francisco, prompting warnings from officials about outdoor activities and closing schools in parts of the Bay Area region. The air quality index in the area was forecast to be an unhealthy 124 Friday, worse than notoriously smoggy Beijing.
PG&E is still struggling to cope with losses from last year’s deadly fires that could cost it as much as $17.3 billion in liabilities, according to a JPMorgan Chase & Co. estimate. Investors are waiting on the state’s investigation into the Tubbs fire, the deadliest of the 2017 wine country fires.
--With assistance from Mark Chediak and Brian K. Sullivan.
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