Wildfires flare up again
Hundreds more homes, buildings destroyed in California
Wildfires tearing through California wine country flared up again Wednesday, destroying hundreds more homes and other buildings and leading to new evacuation orders as authorities raised the death toll to 21 and warned that the number would rise.
At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed since the wildfires started Sunday, making them the third deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history.
Nearly three days after the flames ignited in Northern California, firefighters were still unable to gain control of the blazes, which were growing in number. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said 22 wildfires were burning, up from 17 on Tuesday.
Flames have raced across the wine-growing region and the scenic coastal area of Mendocino farther north, leaving little more than smouldering ashes and eye-stinging smoke in their wake. Whole neighbourhoods are gone, with only brick chimneys and charred laundry machines to mark sites that were once family homes.
Authorities ordered more evacuations for parts of Sonoma Valley after a blaze grew to 113 square kilometres. Officials also cautioned that after a day of cooler weather and calmer winds, dangerous gusts would return Wednesday.
Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said the number of missing-persons reports surpassed 600, up from about 200 a day earlier. But officials believe many of those people will be found, saying that the chaotic evacuations and poor communications over the past few days have made locating friends and family difficult.
He also expects the death toll to climb.
“The devastation is enormous,” he said. “We can’t even get into most areas.”
Flames rise from a hillside east of Santa Rosa, Calif., Tuesday as wildfires, whipped by powerful winds, swept through Northern California.