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.

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