California fires leave thousands without power, communications

By Xinhua

Los Angeles : Thousands people in Southern California lost power and communications services Monday as over a dozen wildfires driven by powerful winds were raging across the region for the second day.

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More than 300,000 customers had been affected by power outages caused by the fires, with thousands of them remaining without electricity as of mid-day, according to the region’s major utility Southern California Edison.

One of the worst fires was reportedly sparked in Sunday by high-voltage power lines that fell on the ground. The fire in the Pacific coastal town of Malibu near Los Angeles, which was contained only 10 percent by Monday morning, had burned down one church, several homes and one famed castle in the upscale community.

Damage includes telecommunications cables and poles along Pacific Coast Highway and other fire-affected areas. Wireless service provider Verizon announced Monday to provide free call-forwarding service to those customers who evacuated their homes.

The company said its crews will be working to replace damaged facilities as soon as they are able to enter the wildfire area safely.

Meanwhile, the rampant blazes were stretching local firefighting resources thin as firefighters were diverted from battling spreading wildfires because of residents who ignored evacuation orders and needed to be rescued.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles and six other Southern California counties affected by the fires, which would free up state resources to help battle the blazes that have been raging since Sunday.

He warned that extremely dangerous, heavy winds and dry conditions make it very hard to get these fires under control.