Wildfires stoked by powerful winds have swept through California, causing the destruction of more than 1,500 homes and businesses and about 20,000 people running helter-skelter in salvage of their dear lives.
Reports indicate that one person was also killed in a fire further north, in Mendocino County, in the US state on Monday, October 9, 2017.
California’s fire chief also reported damage estimates in the wine country conservative and said the fires were burning throughout an eight-county expanse of Northern California, including Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.
“Numerous people have been hurt and some are missing, although no estimates are immediately available,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection director, Ken Pimlott reported.
Few hours after this report, he came back again to say that there were brutal fatalities and the scene looked very pathetic.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered after the blazes broke out late on Sunday. Long lines formed at petrol stations when many families heeded a middle-of-the-night call to get out.
A spokesperson for Pacific Gas & Electric said 114,000 customers were without power.
Routes Blocked by Fallen Trees and Flames
Following this episode were fallen trees and flames blocking the Sonoma County routes, and residents found it difficult to figure out what roads to take to their various destinations.
Fires also burned just to the east in the Napa County as well as in Yuba, Butte, and Nevada counties – all north of the state capital, Sacramento.
Many of the fires spread suddenly overnight, whipped by strong winds.
Santa Rosa, the largest city in the fire area with a population of about 175,000, was hit hard.
The city lost a Kmart and unknown numbers of other businesses and homes, as the blaze shut down its schools and forced patients at two city hospitals to evacuate.
A Hilton Hotel was smoldering and in ruins.
“Imagine a wind-whipped fire burning at explosive rates. This is 50 miles per hour. Literally, it’s burning into the city of Santa Rosa … burning box stores,” Pimlott said.
“This is traditionally California’s worst time for fires, California’s most damaging times for fires have occurred in October.”
More than 200 people were hurriedly evacuated from Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital and Santa Rosa Medical Center, where the blaze could be seen raging nearby.
State of Emergency
Barry Biermann, Napa county fire chief, said the fires had burned more than 176sq km.
Crews had not yet been able to contain a fire heading towards Napa’s business district.
“Right now, with these conditions, we can’t get ahead of this fire and do anything about the forward progress,” Biermann said.
California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.
Smoke was thick in San Francisco, 96km south of the Sonoma County fire.
The National Weather Service said widespread wind gusts were observed in the north San Francisco Bay region.
The winds were expected to subside at midday.
Community centers, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and other local centers were opened for evacuees.
This is one of the deadliest wildfire outbreaks in the history of California, and officials have said the death toll may go up as responders reach more areas struck by the out-of-control blazes.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA