At least 11 people have died in a series of wildfires which hit various parts of California wine country. The areas around Napa and the state capital of Sacramento.
Helped by high temperatures and dry conditions, the 15 fires broke out over the weekend and spread to cover some 73,000 acres, fire officials said. This is considered one of the worst fires emergencies in the state`s history. Firefighters say the conditions have changed for the better, the fact that will help them to localize and put out the fires, but the battle still rages.
Reports suggested that residents had been caught unaware, many of them fleeing in cars and on foot as firefighters rushed to contain the outbreak, New York Times reports. A number of roadways, including highways, were blocked by fire.
At least seven people died in the town of Sonoma, with local authorities fearing the number could rise.Two people also died in Napa County and one in Mendocino County when thousands of acres burned in one valley. One more person died in a separate fire in the Anaheim Hill area.
State of emergency in California
About 20,000 people fled from Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties in response to some the state’s worst-ever wildfires. A state of emergency was declared in northern areas after mass evacuations, with 1,500 properties destroyed.
“These fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten thousands of homes, necessitating the evacuation of thousands of residents,” California Governor Jerry Brown said in the proclamation of the state of emergency. All agencies of the state government are ordered to utilize and employ state personnel and equipment, and facilities in fighting the fires. Also, all residents are encouraged to listen to the advice of emergency officials so they would protect their safety. Governor Brown also said in a news conference that the situation is very dangerous, and has asked the White House for help.
In the hardest hit areas, residents who gathered at emergency shelters and grocery stores said they were shocked by the speed and ferocity of the flames. They recalled all the possessions they had left behind and were lost.
Ken Moholt-Siebert, a vineyard owner who thought his property had probably been destroyed after he and his family escaped on Sunday night, described the suddenness of the disaster.
“There was no wind, then there would be a rush of wind and it would stop. Then there would be another gust from a different direction. The flames wrapped around us,” he told the LA Times.
The same news outlet also writes the destructiveness of the fires shocked officials too. The worst fire in recent California history was the Cedar blaze in San Diego County in 2003, which destroyed more than 2,800 homes. The 2007 Witch fire, also in San Diego County, destroyed more than 1,600. Both of those fires occurred in October.
“This time of year is when historically the state’s largest, most damaging and most deadly fires have occurred,” Upton said. “Critical fire conditions fanned by high winds” act as “a fuse for sparks,” she said.
— Suzanne Espinosa (@suzyesp) October 9, 2017
— Drew Tuma (@DrewTumaABC7) October 9, 2017
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) October 9, 2017