CALIFORNIA has declared a state of emergency as wildfires continue to spread throughout the state.

We explain where the fires are and why they happen every year. Here’s what we know.

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A firefighter observes the raging fire on top of a fire truck in Knightsen
AP:Associated Press

Where are the fires?

There are two major fires that firefighters are battling in the state.

The Kincade fire in the north has now burned more than 54,298 acres in Sonoma County, the wine region north of San Francisco, since October 23.

That fire is reported to be between five and 10 per cent contained, and on Sunday, October 27, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office declared that around 90 to 95 per cent of people in mandatory evacuation zones are now fleeing.

The evacuation zone stretches from the vineyards of Sonoma County to the coastal area of Bodega Bay.

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More than 3,000 firefighters are tackling the Kincade fire alone.

Meanwhile, in Southern California, the Tick fire near Santa Clarita has destroyed at least 22 structures and is currently threatening thousands more, Los Angeles County Fire said Sunday.

The Tick fire has ravaged more than 4,600 acres.

There have been no reported deaths in relation to the fires, but two firefighters were injured.

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The fire is thought to have started just after 3am
AP:Associated Press

How many people have been evacuated?

An estimated 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.

Nearly all the 50,000 residents of the Santa Clarita area were ordered to evacuate, but were able to come back home after the winds died down.

Governor Gavin Newsom estimated that the Kincade fire had led to evacuation orders for around 180,000 residents.

Another 2.4million people face blackouts as “extreme” winds fuel the blaze.

The blackout, thought to be the largest in the state’s history, was made as a precautionary measure to stop damaged power cables from sparking another fire.

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AP:Associated Press

California’s governor issued a statewide state of emergency on Sunday[/caption]

Why are the fires spreading so quickly?

The state will not have much respite from the strong winds that are fuelling the first across the state.

They are expected to keep blowing into Monday, October 28.

According to the National Weather Service, winds peaked at 90mph on Sunday – with 74 to 95 mph classing as the wind speed necessary for a Category 1 hurricane.

Such speeds could lead to “erratic fire behaviour” and send embers for miles, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has warned.

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AFP or licensors

Fires in Sonoma County have led to around 180,000 evacuation orders[/caption]

Speaking of such conditions, Governor Newsom said Sunday, October 27, that the “fire weather conditions are unprecedented due to the scale, scope, wind speed and dry fuel conditions,” describing the current situation as a “historic wind event.”

In a statement, Newsom added: “We are deploying every resource available, and are coordinating with numerous agencies as we continue to respond to these fires.

“It is critical that people in evacuation zones heed the warnings from officials and first responders, and have the local and state resources they need as we fight these fires.”

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AFP or licensors

The Kincade fire in the north is reported to be between five and 10 percent contained[/caption]

Why do the fires happen every year?

Wildfires in California are not an abnormal phenomena.

The chaparral, a coastal biome in southern Californa, and the pine forests in the north have evolved to burn frequently.

However since the 1980s, the size and severity of the fires are on an upward trend, according to National Geographic.

15 of the 20 largest fires in the state’s history have happened since 2000.

Autumnal winds are also changing due to climate change.

The offshore winds go across the state at the same time dry, warm air comes from Sierra mountain range and pushes downwards.

As the winds go downwards they grow in speed, which causes fires to spread quickly.

Scientists say the upward trend points to more evidence of climate change as the hotter air dries out plants more.

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