At least 11 people dead, 100 hurt as wildfires tear through towns, subdivisions
santa rosa, calif. — hundreds more firefighters and law enforcement officials headed tuesday to parts of northern california to battle wildfires that have killed at least 11 people, including a 100-year-old man and his 98-year-old wife who were unable to escape their burning home.
authorities hoped cooler weather and lighter winds would help crews get a handle on the fires, which are among the deadliest in california history and were still burning completely uncontained.
“the weather has been working in our favour, but it doesn’t mean it will stay that way,” said brad alexander, a spokesman of the governor’s Office of emergency services.
the extra firefighters came from throughout california and nevada. the extra law enforcement officers will help with evacuations and guard against looting, alexander said.
at least 100 people have been injured, and as many as 1,500 homes and businesses destroyed, according to authorities, who warned that all those figures were expected to climb in the coming days as more information is reported.
among the dead were charles and sara rippey, who were married for 75 years and lived at the silverado resort in napa.
“the only thing worse would have been if one survived without the other,” their daughter, ruby Gibney told Oakland tv station KTVU.
More than 640 km away, flames imperilled parts of southern california, too. thousands of people were displaced by a wildfire that destroyed or damaged 24 structures, including homes. hot, dry santa ana winds swept fire along brushy outskirts of Orange county suburbs and equestrian properties southeast of los angeles. More than a dozen schools were closed.
the blaze spread over nearly a dozen square kilometres in less than 24 hours as a squadron of helicopters and airplanes bombarded it with water and retardant, and an army of firefighters grew to 1,100 by tuesday morning.
at the other end of the state, 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 that were lost.
“all that good stuff, i’m never going to see it again,” said Jeff Okrepkie, who fled his neighbourhood in santa rosa knowing it was probably the last time he would see his home of the past five years standing. his fears were confirmed Monday, when a friend sent him a photo of what was left: a smouldering heap of metal and debris.
some of the largest of the 14 blazes burning over a 320-km region were in napa and sonoma counties, home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world. they sent smoke as far south as san Francisco, about 96 km away. sonoma county said it has received more than 100 missing-person reports as family and friends sought to locate loved ones. it’s possible that many or most of the missing are safe but simply cannot be reached because of the widespread loss of cellphone service and other communications.
Much of the damage was in santa rosa, a far larger and more developed city than usually finds itself at the mercy of a wildfire. the city is home to 175,000 residents, including both the wine-country wealthy and the working class.
hundreds of homes of all sizes were levelled by flames so hot they melted the glass off of cars and turned aluminum wheels into liquid.
Firefighters rushed to a state home for the severely disabled when flames reached one side of the centre’s sprawling campus in the historic sonoma county town of Glen ellen. crews got the more than 200 people from the threatened buildings, one firefighter said, as flames closed within a few metres.
A man inspects a neighbour’s home in the Coffey Park area of Santa Rosa, Calif., on Tuesday. An onslaught of wildfires across a wide swath of Northern California is tearing through both tiny rural towns and urban subdivisions.
Rohingya refugees wait in line for food at the Thangkhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on Tuesday.