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The Latest: US reduces immigration enforcement during fires

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Latest on California wildfires (all times local):

2 p.m.

The U.S. government says there will be no enforcement of immigration laws during California wildfire evacuations and relief efforts unless holding back on detaining someone would pose a serious public safety threat.

The Department of Homeland Security said Friday in a statement that agents and officers will scale back immigration enforcement to help save lives and keep people safe. It has made similar announcements during hurricanes and other major natural disasters.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agencies are both part of Homeland Security and often assist during natural disasters. The sight of uniformed officers can frighten people in the country illegally and deter them from seeking help.

Pew Research Center estimates that 2.2 million California residents are in the United States illegally, the highest of any state by far.

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1:45 p.m.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says only 6,700 Pacific Gas & Electric customers remain without power after a widespread blackout the utility imposed to prevent deadly wildfires.

But the company is planning a major shutdown that could hit 2 million people throughout the region starting Saturday night and last up to 2 days.

Forecasters are predicting the strongest winds in years throughout Northern California Saturday night and Sunday.

California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghillarducci is warning Californians to be prepared with supplies and to be ready to flee their homes if they are ordered to evacuate because of wildfires.

He urges people to fill up their vehicles with gas and buy food because gas stations and grocery stores might lose power.

Another 40,000 customers are still without power in Southern California because of the pre-emptive shutoffs.

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1:40 p.m.

Shares of California's largest utility have closed down 31 percent on news that the company's equipment might have played a role in another wildfire.

The plunge for Pacific Gas & Electric stock on Friday came after the utility announced Thursday that it found a broken wire on a transmission line near a wildfire that broke out in wine country north of San Francisco.

That fire has destroyed 49 homes and other structures.

PG&E is in bankruptcy because of massive liability from recent major wildfires, including one last year that killed 85 people and wiped out much of the Northern California community of Paradise.

Since then, PG&E's stock has fallen from nearly $50 per share to $5.

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1:35 p.m.

Firefighters in Southern California's San Diego County have corralled a wind-driven wildfire that triggered evacuations near the community of Ramona.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says the forward spread of the blaze was stopped early Friday afternoon.

The 97-acre (39-hectare) fire is 15% contained.

Firefighters are also working to contain fires burning in north Los Angeles County and in wine country north of San Francisco.

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1:20 p.m.

Every California county will get a share of $75 million to help them cope with planned power outages that are darkening much of the state as electric utilities try to keep from sparking devastating wildfires.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday that half the money set aside by lawmakers this year will go into a new "resiliency program" to help local officials protect public health and safety. The other half goes to state operations.

Each of the 58 counties gets at least $150,000. Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Jose will each receive $500,000.

Cities will share $8 million in competitive grants, with tribal governments splitting another $1.5 million.

They can use the money for things like emergency communications equipment or backup power for fire stations, community centers and health facilities.

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11:40 a.m.

A spokeswoman for Southern California Edison says the utility had turned off power hours before a fire sparked in Southern California that now threatens more than 15,000 structures in suburban developments north of Los Angeles.

Spokeswoman Susan Cox says Friday the utility "de-energized the power" in the Santa Clarita community of Canyon Country at about 8:50 a.m. Thursday.

Authorities say the fire erupted around 1:45 p.m. Thursday. Six homes are confirmed destroyed but that figure is expected to rise. The cause is under investigation.

The blaze has scorched nearly 7 square miles (17 square kilometers) and is only 5% contained as 50,000 people were forced to evacuate.

Cox did not have information about the number of customers affected.

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10:50 a.m.

Firefighters are responding to a new wind-driven wildfire in Southern California, and evacuations are underway.

The fire erupted Friday morning near the community of Ramona about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of downtown San Diego.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says the blaze has grown to 60 acres (24 hectares) and evacuation orders have been issued for half a dozen roads in the area.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department says an evacuation center has been set up at a rodeo ground.

Wildfires also are burning near Los Angeles and in wine country north of San Francisco.

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10:50 a.m.

The stock price for California's largest utility has tumbled again on news its equipment might have played a role in another wildfire.

Pacific Gas & Electric stock is down more than 20 percent in Friday's trading. The plunge came after PG&E announced Thursday that it found a broken wire on a transmission line near a wildfire that broke out in wine country north of San Francisco.

That fire has destroyed 49 homes and other structures.

PG&E is in bankruptcy because of massive liability from recent major wildfires, including one last year that killed 85 people and wiped out much of the Northern California community of Paradise.

Since then, PG&E's stock has fallen from nearly $50 per share to just over $5.

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10:25 a.m.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby says more than 15,000 structures are threatened by a wind-driven wildfire burning among suburban developments north of Los Angeles.

Osby says Friday the fire has scorched nearly 7 square miles (17 square kilometers) and is only 5% contained.

The city of Santa Clarita says six homes have been confirmed destroyed, but the fire chief says the number will grow as damage assessment teams work in the area.

The fire erupted for unknown reasons Thursday in a rural area and spread rapidly toward Santa Clarita, fanned by Santa Ana winds blowing from the northeast. As many as 50,000 people were forced to evacuate.

Osby says the firefighters' objective is to increase containment because a wind shift is expected by evening or during the weekend which could send the fire in a new direction.

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8:30 a.m.

A wildfire raging in Northern California wine country grew overnight and firefighters are desperate to control it in advance of heavy winds forecast for Saturday.

State fire officials said on their website Friday that the fire that started Wednesday night in Sonoma County had grown to 34 square miles (88 square kilometers) Friday morning.

The fire has destroyed 49 buildings and is 5% contained.

The fire was whipped up by the strong winds that prompted the Pacific Gas & Electric utility to impose sweeping blackouts affecting about 500,000 people in Northern and central California.

The utility says power was restored to most people by Thursday evening but is warning of another broad shutdown that could affect 2 million people starting Saturday.

About 2,000 people in the wine country town of Geyserville and surrounding areas were under orders to evacuate.

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7:20 a.m.

Officials say the Los Angeles Unified School District has closed all of its schools in the San Fernando Valley because of a wildfire north of the city that prompted authorities to order the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

The district in a statement Friday cites poor air quality because of smoke and safety concerns for the closures affecting thousands of students.

The district also says about two dozen independent charter schools are also closed.

The fire started Thursday afternoon in a rural area and strong winds swept it into outlying areas of the city of Santa Clarita.

Winds at speeds up to about 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour) are fanning the wildfire. Television images before dawn Friday showed several burning homes.

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6:35 a.m.

Howling winds at speeds of about 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour) are fanning a wildfire north of Los Angeles, forcing new evacuations and burning more suburban homes.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department says the fire jumped State Route 14 at about 3 a.m. Friday, sending flames into housing areas and shutting the major freeway connecting high desert communities with Los Angeles.

New evacuations have been ordered for the Sand Canyon section of the city of Santa Clarita.

Television images have shown several homes burning before dawn Friday.

There's no immediate information on how many people the new evacuation order encompasses. Previous evacuation orders issued when the fire broke out on Thursday covered an estimated 50,000 people.

The winds are expected to gradually decrease in the afternoon.

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11 p.m.

Punishing Santa Ana winds that pushed fires into Los Angeles-area neighborhoods, burning six homes, are expected to last through Friday.

The wind-whipped blazes broke out Thursday in the Santa Clarita area. One remains uncontained. As many as 50,000 people are under evacuation orders.

In Northern California, a fire near the wine country town of Geyserville has burned 49 buildings.

Pacific Gas & Electric had cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in the region as a fire safety measure but said it had not deenergized a transmission line that had a problem about the time the fire started.

However, authorities have not determined causes of any of the fires.

Most of those power outages ended late Thursday but PG&E warned they might resume Saturday when fierce winds are expected to return and boost fire danger.

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