Evacuations were ordered in Santa Cruz County, south of San Francisco, after winds sparked new fires in an area where a summer blaze torched 1,500 buildings.
Last year saw a catastrophic and unprecedented wildfire season in California, as the state grappled with increasing effects of the climate crisis. More than 6,500 square miles burned last year, twice the area of the previous modern record, and around 30 people died.
Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency, issued a red flag warning in parts of the state on Monday. Cal Fire said it had responded to around a dozen vegetation fires in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties in 12 hours.
“Fires within the #CZULightningComplex burn area were regenerated by high winds,” the local unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted.
“Other units in the area are battling their own vegetation fires as well.”
The CZU “Complex” – which means multiple fires located in the same area – started in the early hours of 16 August last year, after thousands of bolts of lightning struck.
It raced across more than 135 square miles (350 square kilometers) in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, causing one fatality.
Dozens of new fire starts today in California with winds gusting above 70mph and humidity down to summertime levels.
It's mid-January, the peak of what should be California's rainy season.
We are in a climate emergency. https://t.co/KowZdlQU9d
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) January 19, 2021
Wildland fires can continue to smolder long after open flames have disappeared. In areas of high winds, some public utility providers had shut off power to prevent downed or damaged power lines from sparking.
Parts of California has been suffering weeks of severe drought conditions, and the remainder is considered abnormally dry. Winter snowfall and rain have been significantly lower.
Meteorologist and climate journalist, Eric Holthaus, tweeted: "Dozens of new fire starts today in California with winds gusting above 70mph and humidity down to summertime levels.
“It's mid-January, the peak of what should be California's rainy season. We are in a climate emergency.”
The high-wind event is expected to last through Wednesday in the state.
AP contributed to this report